Facebook’s New Teacher: The Porn Industry


By Elizabeth Shore

Love it, hate it, or fall somewhere in between, the impact Facebook has had on the landscape of social media is undeniable. Since Facebook launched back in 2004, the world has become smaller, more accessible, and certainly less private than it ever was before. We can connect with old friends, old classmates, even stay in touch with family without having to actually visit them. It’s great!

Facebook has also been used in ways not so good, and the rise of revenge porn is among the worst. Having intimate images of yourself splattered all over the digital landscape by a pissed off ex can be done in seconds with the click of a mouse. The devastating effects can last a lifetime.

Ever wanting to be the goodguy, last spring Facebook launched a feature that allows users a means for reporting the posting of unauthorized images, and the opportunity to have those images taken down and perhaps even shutting down the  account of the poster.

That’s all well and fine, except that it’s a reactive solution. Before a victim can do anything, the image has to be out there for the world to see. Once she (and yes, it’s primarily women who are the targets of revenge porn) learns that the image has been posted, she can spring into action and fill out a report to Facebook asking them to take the image down. That’s assuming she even becomes aware of it at all.

Seems to me (and millions of others) that it would be a lot better if there were a way to prevent the image from being uploaded in the first place. amiright? Oh, but wait! Facebook thinks it has the answer to that, too, and it’s being test-piloted in Australia. Here’s how it works: let’s say you’ve got a nude picture of yourself that you know you’d shared with your ex back when you and he were an item. Now that you’ve moved to splitsville and he’s madder than Donald Trump getting bad publicity, there’s a good chance your former flame might want to get his jollies off by plastering that nude pic of you on his Facebook feed. What to do? As mentioned above, you can use Facebook’s “report” feature to address the problem. But now – at least for folks in Australia – you can do one better. Instead of waiting for your ex to upload the nude pic, you can upload it yourself – to Facebook!

Sadly, I’m not making this up. Once Facebook receives your photo, one of their “specially trained employees”  – unclear what exactly they’ve been specially trained to do – will review the image. That’s right. Your nude photo is now in the hands of Facebook’s employees. From there this nude-reviewing expert will “hash” the photo, i.e., convert it into a series of digital numbers which can then be blocked on Facebook’s platforms if someone tries uploading that photo.

Soooo….ah, Facebook. I have questions. Why exactly must a “specially trained employee,” (read: real person), review the photo at all? If someone doesn’t want a private image posted, shouldn’t that be all the information you need? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Facebook users to upload the image to some sort of hash program themselves and have the image automatically converted without anyone needing to first see it?

Does the specially trained employee ever decide that a private image shouldn’t be blocked? On what basis would such a determination be made? Do users have no recourse if their request to hash an image is denied? And about that specially trained employee…how do we know for sure that he wouldn’t secretly stockpile the images himself? What if a woman concerned about revenge porn knows that her ex works at Facebook. It could happen. There are over 17,000 of you folks, after all. Lastly, what if you get hacked, Facebook? What happens to that bounty of nude photos?

I’m not faulting Facebook for trying to address the very serious issue of revenge porn. In fact, I applaud them. At least it’s a start. But to truly make headway into providing real solutions for users, Facebook might want to take a lesson from the porn industry.

Revenge porn is all about the lack of consent. Images being uploaded without the victim’s permission. In the adult entertainment industry, every single performer must sign a “model release” before any image or video is distributed. Why couldn’t Facebook do the same? As writer and assistant professor Amy Hasinoff states in her excellent article about this situation, with the giant force of technology experts on its payroll, surely Facebook could come up with a method for us to provide our consent before private images of us are uploaded to the world. Take a lesson from the porn industry, Facebook. Because all you’re giving us now is the ability to report a violation after it occurs. That’s not good enough.

Elizabeth Shore writes contemporary and historical erotic romance. She’s the author of Hot Bayou Nights, Desire Rising, The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires and (as Liz Madison) Season of Splendor and With His Promise. Her next release, Hot Bayou Fire, the second in the Bayou series, will be out in 2018. Release date announced as soon as it’s known. 

 

 

 

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