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Impressions on combating revenge porn

Impressions on combating revenge porn

The ongoing revolution in communication technologies have greatly affected our society. Internet, and in particular social media has created huge number of opportunities for different groups of the social interest. It has particularly erased physical borders between people and made communication that easy. However, it also created risks and concerns that need to be attended.

Besides of new methods for communication, doing business and inventing new methods to share ideas to the world, modern communication technologies also lead to new forms of violence and bullying that can totally devastate human’s life. Among such forms of violence revenge porn is one of the ugliest. It not only makes the most secret and private part of human life public, but it also leaves victims in a position where they are not capable to defend themselves, as far as they simply might not be informed when the crime is committed, and they might have no clue that their privacy has been compromised in such distorted manner. Revenge porn, as a form of vengeance is very complex and reflects erosion of the existing social constructions. It is mostly used by people who have problems with social behavior, who cannot accept “NO” as an answer and who find difficult to get used to the changes that took place in their life, or relationship. The biggest problem related to this social event is that most of the victims are female individuals. Also, as the rough observation show, there are even bigger crimes hiding against a revenge porn. Often, the violators who have somehow obtained sexually explicit pictures, or videos of a person, use it as a tool to achieve sexual consent, or make their victims remain silent about mistreatment to them, or control their lives in any other manner and once, when they are refused, they use these materials as a tool to destroy lives of their victims.

Revenge porn cannot be discussed from the perspective of a single dimension. On the one hand it is a crime against property as far as, the materials belonging to someone are used without their consent, but same time it is a major violation of the fundamental human rights as far as such action not only violates privacy, but causes trauma that by its nature is equal to torture and mistreatment, it violates human dignity and sexual freedom as well, therefore we should look at revenge porn as at the crime that is directed against not fundamental, but absolute human rights.

PimEyes has launched PROtect service that provides professional assistance to potential victims of the revenge porn. Accordingly, the company has accumulated some experience in the field that might be interesting to share.

As the practice has shown facial recognition might be useful tool to locate the web sources which publish such explicit materials and accordingly take measures to takedown them. According to the latest studies the revenge porn cases have been doubled during the last two years. This tendency has also been reflected on subscription rate of PROtect package, which has doubled since the last year. According to our analysis 87% of customers are female, or representatives of LGBTQ community, which shows how vulnerable these groups are around the world. PimEyes PROtect team acts in the following manner: Once the takedown request is submitted, PROtect agent starts to review the case and identify the source where the materials have been uploaded. Once the contact details of the web site administration is clear, they are sent the takedown requests based on GDPR and DMCA regulations. Sometimes it takes a month to remove the content, sometimes it is totally impossible.

During their professional activity, PROtect agents faced several major challenges:

  1. In the most cases porn sites and other web sites containing explicit content are being created out of any legal framework, what means that, every individual can create a porn site and upload explicit material without any type of consent of the owners of those materials.

  2. Many web sites are impossible to be contacted. The owners of the websites simply hide their identity, and they provide no contact information. Especially the web sites that offer escort services in the countries, where prostitution is not legal. Many web sites from Russian federation, South – East Asia or Latin America and Africa hide their contacts and create a web of mirrored web sites (multiple web sites, with different keywords, linked to one domain and sharing its content) to enhance engagement to their content.

  3. Such web sites are too many, and their number is increasing in tremendous speed. Only PimEyes has already identified and added over 5000 web sites to its database and every day PROtect team finds and adds 15-20 new web sites based on the takedown requests.

  4. The content is reappearing, as far as the violators upload it to the dark web-based sources and later they are “transferred” to the “conventional” internet and there is still no efficient way to combat illegal activities in the dark web.

  5. According to the subscribers, materials often contain sexual violence, and other crime scenes, were “takedown notices” are not enough. Law enforcement institutions should be notified immediately about the case.

Besides, of the mentioned, one of the most concerning issues, regarding to combat revenge porn are existing regulations. To perform successful takedown, a person must prove his/her identity to be authorized to remove the content, published without her/his consent. Accordingly, to make a web site administration that publishes and explicit content to remove pictures, the person who is in the picture must present additional personal data. That creates a risk of further compromising of a privacy of victim.

To overcome the mentioned obstacle, PimEyes requested subscribers to provide only anonymized ID cards, where their personal details, such as personal number, passport number, etc. are hidden.

Also, it is worth mentioning that increasing number of explicit web sites requires increased scale of manual work for PROtect team to gather contact information of the sources that often publish materials without consent of its rightful owner.

Only this year, PimEyes PROtect team had 7306 active cases, from which 2127 has been successfully resolved, in 230 cases, PROtect team was unable to perform successful takedowns and 4949 cases are being attended at current moment.

This number of cases is just a small reflection of a problem, a top of an iceberg. Accordingly, PimEyes management plans to put greater efforts in combating revenge porn cases. In the framework of recently adopted social responsibility policy PimEyes plans to implement the following amendments:

• Make protect service affordable, what means that the pricing policy will be fundamentally reviewed to make this service affordable to socially vulnerable groups.

• Special terms for human rights organizations. Organizations working in the field of children, women’s rights will have special discounts on our products.

• Enhanced cooperation with law enforcements institutions. Currently PimEyes team works on special terms for law enforcements institutions of European countries and the US, that specialized in investigating of crimes related to illegal dissemination of pornography and sexual crimes. PimEyes also encourages subscribers to inform law enforcement institutions immediately as soon as they find materials that might contain signs of different crimes.

We believe that synergy between public, non-governmental and private sectors can contribute combating revenge porn. As far as, this is the problem which can’t be solved by single efforts of one particular entity or part of society. This is the bigger problem, where we all should stand together.