Meta Announces Tools to Help Protect Against Sextortion and Intimate Image Abuse

Meta Announces Tools to Help Protect Against Sextortion and Intimate Image Abuse

Meta has announced new tools being tested to protect young people and adults from intimate image abuse. The updated features are expected to help protect individuals from sextortion scams, include new protections in DMs, and signposts to support services and reporting methods for those affected.

New Protections

Meta’s new features aim to improve protections for individuals being targeted by sextortion scammers through Instagram DMs. Meta has described that new tools will automatically blur intimate images, and these images will also be distorted under a warning screen. Additionally, users involved in sending or receiving such images will receive safety tips and information about available resources.

As Meta states, the feature ‘will be turned on by default for teens under 18 globally, and we’ll show a notification to adults encouraging them to turn it on.’

Sextortion Support

The latest changes will make it harder for potential scammers and criminals to target individuals by automatically placing message requests from suspicious accounts in the recipient’s hidden requests folder, without notifying the recipient.

Further protections are being implemented for teenagers, including restrictions on messaging from potential sextortion accounts. Additional tests are underway to hide teenagers' accounts from individual followers and accounts that they follow, making it more challenging for suspicious accounts to locate teenagers in search results.

Updated Resources

Resources will also be provided by Meta, to anyone who may have interacted with an account that has been removed for sextortion. A pop-up message will direct them to sextortion resources, critical support helplines, and non-emergency services, such as the Revenge Porn Helpline for adults in the UK, for those over 18, and Take it Down for those under 18. 

Rising Cases of Sextortion

The new announcement coincides with increasing reports of sextortion affecting both adults and young people. The Revenge Porn Helpline has documented a continuous rise in reports of this form of blackmail since 2021, with sextortion being the most commonly reported concern the Helpline supports.

Recent reports also indicate a growing trend of sextortion cases affecting young people. Data from SWGfL’s UK Safer Internet Centre partner, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), revealed a record amount of sextortion cases were reported to the hotline in 2023, predominantly affecting the lives of teenage boys.

"Sextortion, alongside other forms of intimate image abuse, can have a devastating and lasting impact on the lives of the individuals affected. We welcome changes from online platforms that strengthen their protections against this form of abuse. Moving forward, we hope to see further protections put in place to ensure users feel safe online, and we will continue our work to encourage more industry to join initiatives such as” — Sophie Mortimer, Revenge Porn Helpline Manager.

Available Support

SWGfL and our partners at the UK Safer Internet Centre provide a series of services and resources to support adults and young people who have been affected by sextortion.

Professionals and parents assisting young people involved in sextortion attempts can find guidance around sexting and what to do if a young person’s intimate images are shared in the “So You Got Naked Online” resource from SWGfL. Young people can also use the Report Remove tool, run jointly by Childline and IWF.

Also operated by SWGfL, the Revenge Porn Helpline can provide support for any adult who has been affected by sextortion, and provides plenty of information on its website about intimate image abuse. The Helpline operates Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, and can be contacted by phone, email, or anonymous methods.

For anyone living outside of the UK, adults worldwide can use to protect their intimate images from being shared across participating platforms.

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