Today, the world shares their lives with significant people with a click of a button, by way of pictures and videos. We share every aspect of our day, whether the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the places we visit, and the people we meet. Many people, also often share their intimate pictures and videos with their partners. But what happens when these pictures are forwarded, to others? Would that count as online harassment?

Facebook seems to have taken this very issue of online harassment and non consensual sharing of images and videos to its own hands, and is dealing with it in a strict manner starting TODAY. Today, they announced new tools to help people when intimate images are shared on Facebook without their permission. When this content, often referred to as “revenge porn,” is reported, they can now prevent it from being shared on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. This is part of their ongoing effort to help build safer communities on and off Facebook.

According to a study of US Victims of Non-Consensual Intimate Images, 93% (GUIDE FOR LEGISLATORS) of people affected by the sharing of intimate images report significant emotional distress, and 82% report significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of their life.

Facebook’s new features will now be able to help people caught in these situations:

  • * If you see an image on Facebook that looks like it was shared without permission, you can report it by using the “Report” link that appears when you tap on the downward arrow or “…” next to a post
  • * Specially trained representatives from the Community Operations team review the image and remove it if it violates our Community Standards. In many cases, the account will also disabled for sharing intimate images without permission. There is also a consequent appeals process if someone believes an image was taken down in error.
  • * Subsequently,photo-matching technologies is used to help prevent further sharing of the images on Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram. If someone tries to share the image after it’s been reported and removed, they will be alerted about the fact that it violates our policies.

Centre for Social Research has been proud to be a part of Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board for almost two years now. As part of our collaboration #SocialSurfing with Facebook, we have been discussing online safety and maintaining one’s privacy online, with college students across India, since 2015. Here is what Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director of CSR had to say on the launch of Facebook’s new safety tools:

“The Centre for Social Research has been partnering with Facebook to build safe communities. We train the Facebook users on safe and healthy use of social media through our #SocialSurfing Workshops. It is through these workshops, that we have come across several reports from youngsters on the fear or actual incidence of violation on the generic medium of social media. The recent safety mechanism that has been added to the platform, provides help to the young users, especially women, whose intimate pictures are shared on Facebook without their consent. The kind of hatred and anger that prevails today has given birth to crimes like revenge porn and I feel this safety feature will definitely help in controlling plus punishing the culprits involved in such activities. I would also like to mention here that the users must also come forward and use these safety features so that the perpetrators are punished and taken off the online spaces. Facebook has done a commendable job of launching this tool which addresses an important concern, effectively.”

With online spaces slowly and steadily turning into a reflection of our society, it is not a matter of surprise that harassment too finds its way in different forms. Through the lens of gender equality and women empowerment, we seek to make the online space not only a gender-just, democratic platform for interaction but we also seek to create social change by harnessing the power of social media. Thus, we give our total support to this wonderful initiative, and hope that this issue of consent and non-consensual photo sharing gains momentum.