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Bumble’s new ‘Private Detector’ protects users from rude, lewd and nude photos

Bumble says the algorithm behind ‘Private Detector’ recognizes and blurs lewd images with 98 percent accuracy and flags them for users. (Bumble)

Bumble is stepping up safety precautions on its popular dating site with a new feature that will shield users from, uh, junk mail.

Bumble’s “Private Detector” will use artificial intelligence to tackle the scourge of unsolicited nude photos — a problem that disproportionately affects women on dating apps, through texts and social media. A 2017 survey from YouGov found more than half of all millennial women had received an explicit image electronically, and more than 75 percent of these recipients had not sought them out. (Interestingly, less than 25 percent of men surveyed admitted to having sent such photos.)

The algorithm behind “Private Detector” recognizes and blurs lewd images with 98 percent accuracy, Bumble said, and flags them for users. The user can then decide whether to block or report the image. The feature also prevents explicit images from being uploaded to user profiles. The feature will be available on Bumble in June, and on other apps under parent company Badoo, such as Chappy and Lumen.

“The sharing of lewd images is a global issue of critical importance,” Badoo chief executive Andrey Andreev said in a news release. “It falls upon all of us in the social media and social networking worlds to lead by example and to refuse to tolerate inappropriate behavior on our platforms.”

The feature is an extension of existing technology Bumble uses to identify and block photos of firearms and shirtless mirror selfies, which are banned on the app, according to reporting by Inc.

Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd wants people who send explicit pictures to face real consequences. She has been working with Texas lawmakers to advance a bill that would make sending unsolicited “sexually explicit visual material” a Class C misdemeanor.

“As tech companies, we can only do so much,” Wolfe Herd said last month when she testified before the Texas Legislature. “If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why is it not on your phone or computer?”

New York’s city council is considering a similar bill that would make sending unwanted, intimate images and videos a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine as much $1,000 and up to a year in jail.

Wolfe Herd founded Bumble — a dating app where women must make the first move — in 2014, after she resigned from Tinder, which she also co-founded. She later sued the company for gender discrimination. The case was settled out of court.

Although it might be difficult to track down and punish those who send lewd photos through anonymous methods like AirDrop, the legislation still sends a powerful message that might help moderate such behavior, Kenworthey Bilz, a law professor at the University of Illinois, told Texas Monthly.

“This is a way of stating that this is a behavior that isn’t just obnoxious, but that so violates the norms of what we think is proper that we’re actually going to get the law involved here,” Bilz said. “It’s a way of shaping norms to get this behavior taken more seriously.”