In short: The spread of intimate images, especially of minors, is one of the most serious issues surrounding social media. Meta and several other groups have begun to offer people a way to prevent the unwanted proliferation of such images, promising total privacy.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) announced this week that it is partnering with several online platforms on a tool to help teens and others prevent their intimate photos from being shared. The move seeks to take a more preventative approach compared to typical reporting systems.
Usually, if someone wants to stop a blatant image of themselves from spreading online, they have to find instances of it and report each one. For many, the process is likely laborious, embarrassing, and ultimately ineffective because of how quickly such content spreads.
Take It Down is a platform that tags such images with digital fingerprints so that participating services – which now include Facebook, Instagram, OnlyFans, Yubo, and PornHub – can automatically detect and remove them. The method has limitations but may be more effective than conventional measures due to its proactive and automated nature.
If a user fears that a clear image or video may be shared on the internet, they can select it and go to the “Get Started” page on the Take It Down website. From there, the service will create a hash that it will use to identify exact copies, which will be removed by participating platforms if found.
The tool is primarily for minors, but adults can also use it for content created by minors. It is also accessible to anyone in the world.
Those concerned about sharing their images on Take It Down should note that assigning a digital fingerprint will not upload the content. It only stays on their device, the staff operating Take It Down cannot view it, and the hash cannot be used to copy it. Additionally, creating a hash does not require any personal information.
However, to create a hash for a video or photo, it must still be on the user’s device. In addition, it does not prevent the spread of images that have already been uploaded, but it does slow it down. Take It Down also doesn’t penetrate encryption. In addition, users should not try to upload photos themselves after submitting them to the service as this may tag them and lead to a social media ban.
NCMEC has additional services for those who want to fight the spread of their intimate images. The organization also operates a CyberTipline for people who have been threatened about explicit images. Anyone in need of mental health services can go to NCMEC’s emotional support portal.