Swanson: Facebook’s Anti-Revenge Porn Program is Lacking to Say the Least

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By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

The matter of revenge porn is probably one of the more understated yet serious problems facing the Internet. For the uninitiated, these are pornographic images and videos uploaded online, of participants who did not consent to having those images shared. This is usually done out of spite towards an ex, hence the name revenge porn. It’s been a source of unwarranted embarrassment and harassment towards innocent people for years and has been outlawed in 38 states (Utah included) as well as DC. However it still serves to be a source of pain for individuals in the 12 states that have yet to take legal action against it, as well as the global community at large.

One of the countries that has faced this problem is Australia, which is why Facebook has started to implement a new program there to help combat the situation. Facebook’s solution? Send them your nude photos. It may sound ludicrous, but that is actually the whole backbone of the program. Under such efforts, if you were victimized, you would send your revealing photos to Facebook via Messenger to yourself, where artificial intelligence would create a digital fingerprint to that photo to help prevent it from being uploaded in the future.

While it may be terrifying to think that Facebook is just storing a database of user-submitted nude photos ripe for the hacking, Facebook did clarify that the images are not what is stored. They are storing the link with the artificial intelligence. So there won’t just be a server at Facebook headquarters with all of your intimate photos. However, storing the link still means that personnel at Facebook will have access to the information stored at those links. It’s up to your own level of trust in Facebook and its employees.

Unfortunately for users who would be willing to contribute to this program by trusting Facebook with these images, there are two main downfalls. The first one is a little obvious. This would only work on Facebook. So while it’s admirable that Facebook is doing their best to rid their own platform of this plague, it holds very little impact against the behemoth that is revenge porn circulating the Internet elsewhere.

The second downfall, is that the image recognizing AI that Facebook is using is not flawless and most likely will never be. There are very easy filters and alterations that anyone can apply to photos using image editing software like Photoshop to get these images to slip through the cracks and still find themselves uploaded for friends and family to see. If an ex is really dead set on getting photos out there, unfortunately they will most likely be able to.

Facebook should be admired for taking a stance against this problem and for putting up another defense for potential victims. However the program is just simply lacking in too many areas for it to be a viable protection for victims of revenge porn on Facebook, let alone on the Internet in general. That is why we should ask more of Facebook and other media hosting sites in doing their best to implement more effective and solidified protection programs against this machine that destroys lives and reputations.

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