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Facebook wants your nude photos to fight revenge porn

In a pilot project in Australia, the social network is converting explicit images into unique digital fingerprints that can be blocked from the site.

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Facebook is trying a new way to combat revenge porn.

Claudia Cruz/CNET

Facebook is asking people to share their nude photos. But this isn't what it sounds like.

The goal of the social network's plan is make sure people's nude photos aren't used for revenge porn by a disgruntled ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Facebook already has a reporting system in place for when someone's intimate photos are shared without consent, but the idea with this program is to nix the photos before they're disseminated in the first place.

The way it'll work is people will share their photos with Facebook via its Messenger app and the company will then "hash" the images, which is a process that converts the photos into a unique digital code. Once Facebook has that code, it can block the images from ever being uploaded to its site.

The company is piloting the technology in Australia with a small government agency headed by e-Safety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

"We see many scenarios where maybe photos or videos were taken consensually at one point, but there was not any sort of consent to send the images or videos more broadly," Inman Grant told the ABC.

Other tech companies have used similar types of hashing technology in efforts to rid the internet of child pornography. Google, Microsoft and Twitter have used unique digital codes to detect exploitative images, some of which have led to the arrests of people distributing the photographs on the web.

Facebook published a blog post Thursday that gives more specifics on the pilot project. The company said it's constantly working to prevent revenge porn and was looking to try something different. For the program, the social network has partnered with an international working group of survivors, victim advocates and other experts.

"This program is completely voluntary," wrote Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety. "It's a protective measure that can help prevent a much worse scenario where an image is shared more widely."

Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment.

First published Nov. 8, 11:02 a.m. PT.
Update, Nov. 9 at 3:16 p.m.: Adds information from Facebook blog post.

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