Facebook launches platform to help stop revenge porn

·6-min read
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

If you've ever been on the receiving end of a naked threat, you'll know just how stomach-curdling, fear-inducing, and anxiety-spiking it can be. The idea that someone you trusted would hurt you by sharing an intimate photo of you without consent (also known as revenge porn) can feel like the worst betrayal – which is why charities such as Refuge and organisations like the Revenge Porn Helpline, along with social media platforms, have been busy trying to tackle the issue.

In one especially exciting new step, today (2 December), Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger's parent company, Meta, announced that they're partnering with the Revenge Porn Helpline to launch a specific tool designed to help stop the non-consensual sharing of intimate images (NCII) on the internet.

"StopNCII.org is available to people all over the world and will be operated by the UK Revenge Porn Helpline which has helped thousands of NCII survivors," a statement from Meta reads. "There are also 50 international NGO partners joining the fight, to help victims take back control."

"When someone is concerned their intimate images have been posted or might be posted to online platforms like Facebook or Instagram, they can create a case through StopNCII.org to proactively detect them," Meta added. Essentially, the tool features hash-generating technology that assigns a unique hash value (a numerical code) to an image, creating a secure digital fingerprint.

"Tech companies participating in StopNCII.org receive the hash and can use that hash to detect if someone has shared or is trying to share those images on their platforms."

Once you've hashed the image, you can Google search it at any time to check that it is not on the internet - and if you find that the image has been uploaded you can locate the exact site, report it and have it removed. That said, you don't need a hash to search for an image - you can reverse image search any picture. Find out how here.

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

Earlier this year, both the act of sharing nude photos or videos, along with threatening to do so became a crime, thanks to Refuge's campaign - #TheNakedThreat. The campaign's success means we'll now see abusers and blackmailers face up to two years in jail, as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill. Refuge's campaign was wholeheartedly supported by Cosmopolitan UK, charity ambassador Olivia Colman, survivors, and influencer Zara McDermott, who herself has experienced naked threats and her images shared without her consent.

Ellie Butt, head of policy and parliamentary affairs at Refuge, added, "The Revenge Porn Helpline has seen calls about threats to share intimate images more than triple between 2017 and 2020, rising 73% between 2019 and 2020 alone."

"So much of our lives are lived online, which is increasingly causing harm and enabling abuse. Making threats to share intimate images a crime will make a real difference to thousands of women," Butt also said.

What is the current law around ‘revenge porn’?

It is illegal for someone to share an intimate image or video without consent and as of 1 March 2021, it was announced that threatening to do so is also set to become a punishable crime in the eyes of the law. "Threatening to share an image is a form of domestic abuse - living with this threat is a very powerful way in which men can control and abuse women," warns Refuge.

What should I do if my current partner has asked for naked pictures of me?

"If you are concerned for any reason that your partner may use such an image against you then we recommend you don't share it," the charity advises. "Another way to look at this is to think – am I scared or worried about sharing an image with him and what he might then do with the image? If the answer is yes, or if you are experiencing any other form of abuse, then be very wary of sending such an image as this could be yet another way in which your partner could control you." If you do decide to send any images then keep it somewhere secure, as you may need to use it at a later date.

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

It's also worth noting that, as detailed above, before you send the image you can 'hash' it. "Hashing an image is a process where you can link the image with The Revenge Porn Helpline and they will request you also safely upload the image to them and then their specialist team will ensure the image cannot be uploaded online onto specific social media sites," explain Refuge.

What should I do if a current or ex partner has threatened to share naked pictures I sent?

If you feel comfortable to, report the threat to the police. "It is likely you will be experiencing other forms of abuse and harassment and the police could support you to put protective measures in place to stop you from being contacted by your current/ex-partner," say Refuge. "Keep all evidence of the threats your partner or ex makes, for example any messages or emails, as you may need these later on when seeking protective measures."

Is there anything I can do to stop people sharing my naked pictures?

If you have a copy of the image that someone is threatening to share, follow the above advice on hashing the image via StopNCII.org – this will prevent it from being uploaded on certain social media channels.

"You can also set up Google Alerts, so every time anything associated with your image or name is uploaded to the internet, you will be notified by email or message and this will send you directly to the site so you can report and remove the content," the charity advises. Remember to take screenshots of the image/content uploaded to the site as you may need this at a later date to report to the police.

Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images
Photo credit: Katie Wilde - Getty Images

What can I do if they actually go ahead and share my naked photos?

"If you feel safe doing to, again we would encourage you to report this to the police," say Refuge. You can also contact Refuge and the Revenge Porn Helpline for support.

If my naked pictures have been sent to other people, but not posted online, is that legal?

If you did not consent to your images being shared, then this is illegal. "If this happens there will be an evidence trail of the images being sent from one device to another," advise Refuge. "Alert the police so they can follow up and check to see if the images have been circulated. Even if they aren’t shared online they will be sent via messaging platforms and this can all be traced."

If you need support, call Refuge’s Freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or go to nationaldahelpline.org.uk. Contact the Revenge Porn Helpline here.

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