4-5-17 6:04 PM EDT | Email Article
By Deepa Seetharaman 

Facebook Inc. said it is trying to halt the spread of so-called revenge porn on its services just weeks after a nude-photo scandal involving the Marines surfaced on the social-media site.

On Wednesday, the company said it is employing a stricter process to help prevent nude and sexually explicit images from being shared without consent on Facebook, its Messenger app and photo-sharing service Instagram.

Facebook will still rely on its users to flag such images, but it is dedicating a team to review the photos and will disable the accounts without warning. It said it will then use photo-matching technology so that images cannot be shared again. Instead, a user will get an alert saying the content violates Facebook policy and can't be shared.

"These tools, developed in partnership with safety experts, are one example of the potential technology has to help keep people safe," Facebook's Head of Safety Antigone Davis said in a statement. "Facebook is in a unique position to prevent harm."

The announcement comes a month after allegations that active members veterans of the military shared nude photos of female Marines, including some taken without their knowledge, on a secret Facebook group. The military is investigating the photo sharing across all branches of the armed forces.

Facebook also faces legal issues. Last September, the company lost its bid to stop a lawsuit in the U.K. by a 14-year-old girl whose naked image appeared on Facebook. The company's lawyers have argued the company took down the photo when it was notified and the claim for damages should be dismissed. Facebook declined to comment on pending litigation.

Facebook said it has been working on the technology since last year. According to a recent survey of 3,000 Americans published last year, 4% of U.S. internet users have had nude or nearly nude photos of themselves posted without permission or had someone threaten to do so. The report, published in December 2016, was prepared by the research firm Data & Society and the nonprofit Center for Innovative Publish Health Research.

There is no federal law making revenge porn illegal, but more than 30 states have passed legislation to criminalize it in recent years.

Facebook's approach to revenge porn is similar to how it handles images of child exploitation. In that case, Facebook and many tech companies scan for such items relying on a database of known images created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks, an expert in revenge porn, was among those consulted by Facebook and said she was pleased with Facebook's steps. Ms. Franks is also Legislative & Tech Policy Director at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. She has pushed tech companies to use photo-hashing technology, which converts images into unique hashes or signatures, to fight revenge porn.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at Deepa.Seetharaman@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 05, 2017 18:04 ET (22:04 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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