Facebook asks users to upload ‘intimate’ photos to fight ‘revenge porn’ in new pilot program

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Facebook is announcing a new pilot program to try to combat 'revenge porn' or 'non-consensual pornography.' On Tuesday, the social media network announced it would begin testing the program in the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada starting this week.

The initiative is aimed at preventing intimate photos from being shared on the social media platform without permission. They are partnering with an international working group of safety organizations, survivors and victim advocates including the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and The National Network to End Domestic Violence from the U.S.

In this age of technology, dating and intimate relationships are quickly changing and not just limited to adolescents.

"Maybe it's your husband of 25 years and you're trying to spice things up. People share flirty photos," explained Cindy Southworth, Executive Vice President of The National Network to End Domestic Violence and Founder of the Safety Net Project.

Unfortunately, that technology can also be used by those looking for revenge.

"The breakup occurred and then there was that fear of 'what are they going to do with this picture?'" recalled Stan Long, a licensed independent clinical social worker and private independent practitioner in private practice at Huntsville Psychotherapy and Counseling Services.

People who worry someone may want to harm them by sharing 'intimate' images can contact those two groups to request a form. Facebook says the person will be sent a one-time upload link for the victim or potential victim to upload the images they think may be shared. The images will be reviewed by "a handful of specifically trained members of our Community Operations Safety Team" to create a unique digital fingerprint, or hash, to "identify future uploads of the images without keeping copies of them on our servers," explained Antigone Davis, Facebook's Global Head of Security.

Long says he believes the move is a good start. "It sounds like a good faith effort to try and prevent that malicious intent."

The social media network says once the hashes are created, the person will be notified by email and the images will be deleted from Facebook's servers, "no later than seven days."

"We store the hashes so anytime someone tries to upload an image with the same fingerprint, we can block it from appearing on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger," Davis says.

The digital fingerprint will prevent the same photo, even if it has been altered or cropped, from being shared on Facebook by others.

Facebook already has a way for users to report when an intimate photo has been shared and a hash is created for that photo, but the new program is a preventative effort.

"There's no right or wrong step here for victims. It's whatever makes you sleep better at night and feel safe," said Southworth.

She also believes the announcement creates an opportunity for parents. "I would much rather parents take this opportunity of Facebook's announcement to talk to their kids about what a healthy relationship looks like and that never includes non-consensual sharing."

The announcement came the same day that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to European Union lawmakers for the Cambridge Analytica scandal.