Facebook tests new feature to target online harassment

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With a surge in several forms of online harassment, Facebook is now working on a new tool to help stem one source of harassment on its platform.

The social network is testing a new feature that will automatically alert you if it detects another user impersonating your account by using your name and profile photo.

As soon as Facebook detects that another user may be impersonating you, it will send a notification to alert you about the profile. You will then be prompted to identify whether the profile in question is using your personal information to impersonate your account, or whether it just belongs to someone else who is not impersonating you.

Though the notification process is automated, profiles that are flagged as impersonations are manually reviewed by Facebook’s team. The feature, which the company began testing in November 2015, is already live in 75 per cent of the world and Facebook plans to expand its availability in the not so distant future.

Although impersonation isn’t necessarily a widespread problem on Facebook, it still counts as a source of harassment on the platform. Impersonation falls under the company’s names policy, which requires users to use an authentic name.

“We heard feedback prior to the roundtables and also at the roundtables that this was a point of concern for women,” Facebook’s Head of Global Safety, Antigone Davis, said.

“And it’s a real point of concern for some women in certain regions of the world where it [impersonation] may have certain cultural or social ramifications,” he added.

Davis further added that impersonation alerts are part of continuous efforts to make women around the world feel more safe while using the social platform.

The company has been hosting round table discussions around the world with users, activists, NGOs and other groups to gather feedback on how the platform can better address issues around privacy and safety.

As a result of talks, Facebook is also testing two other safety features. It is finding new ways of reporting nonconsensual intimate images and a photo checkup feature. Facebook has explicitly banned the sharing of nonconsensual intimate images since 2012, but the feature it is currently testing is meant to make the reporting experience more compassionate for victims of abuse, Davis said.

During the testing period, if someone reports nudity on Facebook, they will have the additional option of identifying themselves as the subject of the photo as well as reporting the photo as inappropriate.

According to Davis, initial testing of these reporting processes has gone well but they are still looking to gather more feedback and research before rolling them out more broadly.

The photo checkup feature is similar to Facebook’s privacy dinosaur, which enables users to check and amend their privacy settings. Likewise, the new photo-centric feature is meant to help educate users about who can and can not see their photos.

Although Facebook has enabled users to customise privacy controls, some users, particularly those in India and other countries where the feature is still being tested, aren’t necessarily familiar with how to use them.

The photo checkup aims to bridge that gap by walking users through a step-by-step review process of the privacy settings for their photos. The photo checkup tool is live in India, as well as other countries in South America, Africa and southeast Asia.

 

 

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