Apparently Facebook is testing a ‘troll detection’ engine that will scan its billions of users for accounts which appear to be impersonating others, and flag up imitations. According to Mashable it has been in development since November but is now live for 75 percent of the world.
Antigone Davis, the social network’s head of global safety, said impersonation alerts were intended to minimise the harassment of women on the platform. “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,” Davis said.
When the new feature detects a user with the same name and profile picture as another, the new tool will send an alert to the suspected target. Mashable reports that the alert will ask the person to confirm the impersonation by using personal information. The process is automated but profiles that are flagged as fake will be reviewed by Facebook staffers.
Impersonation of another user is outlawed because it falls under the company’s controversial ‘real names’ policy. Since its launch the company has insisted that users provide their real names, rather than a pseudonym or other names a person may use to ensure they are not easily found on the site. “We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you’re connecting with,” Facebook’s policy page on the issue says.
However, after a coalition of human rights and privacy groups complained that the name policy “exposes its users to danger, disrespects the identities of its users, and curtails free speech,” Facebook introduced new tools to make verification easier. In December Mark Zuckerbrerg’s company started testing a tool, in the US, that allows those required to prove their identity to say if they have a “special circumstance”.
The UK is also moving to make it easier for authorities to prosecute trolls who use fake profiles online. The move from the Crown Prosecution Service aims to clampdown on those that post “damaging or embarrassing” material.
As well as the impersonation feature Facebook is also reportedly testing new ways for people to report nonconsensual intimate images — commonly referred to as revenge porn — that are posted to the site.
Facebook is apparently testing a new way of reporting nudity; when someone reports an inappropriate photo they will have the ability to identify themselves as the person in the photo. Facebook will then review the images as standard, but Mashable reports that when this happens it will provide links to support groups and potential legal options.
Recently WIRED reported on the cases of several users who had sensitive photos posted to Facebook. The issue, which is a growing one across all social media platforms, was described by legal experts as having “no silver bullet”.
Mary Anne Franks, Law professor, University of Miami School of Law, said that as a society we need to change laws, technology and culture.