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Meta-funded online tool will allow you to remove your explicit images from the internet


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Meta-funded online tool will allow you to remove your explicit images from the internet

What happens on the internet, stays on the internet. That is arguably the World Wide Web’s number one rule. We hammer it in people’s heads to think twice before sending explicit images. In many cases, however, especially involving teenagers, the victims are manipulated to believe it’s their only option. If the perpetrators circulate these images online without their consent, it becomes difficult to get them removed.

A new online tool might give them a chance to redo their choices. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children launched Take It Down, an online site that will allow users to take down explicit images and videos of themselves on the internet. Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook and Instagram is funding the tool’s infrastructure in part.

People can go to the website and anonymously create what is essentially a digital fingerprint of the image. You don’t have to upload any images for this. A digital fingerprint or a “hash” is basically data that you leave behind every time you are online. The fingerprint then goes into a database and the tech companies that have agreed to participate in the project will remove the images from their services.

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Yubo, OnlyFans and Pornhub, owned by Mindgeek, are the only sites participating in this program. If the image is on another site, or if it is sent in an encrypted platform such as WhatsApp, it will not be taken down. If someone alters the original image in any way, it becomes a new image and thus needs a new hash. Images that are visually similar – such as the same photo with and without an Instagram filter, will have similar hashes, differing in just one character.

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Companies have attempted to create similar tools in the past, but not many were successful. Facebook tried launching something similar in 2017 but failed miserably. Launched in Australia first, the site would ask people to share (encrypted) images in order to proceed further. So many people did not trust the site.

In a blog post announcing this new initiative, Meta also said it introduced some new features that make it more difficult for suspicious adults to interact with teens on Instagram. Although it has limited capabilities, this new tool may help thousands of lives. Many victims of ‘revenge porn’ avoid going to the police because of the stigma and public shaming. Take it Down will encourage more people to take back control from the perpetrators, and will allow them to do so anonymously.

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