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Google Makes a Big Move to Help Revenge Porn Victims

The search giant steps in to protect those harmed by non-consensual pornography.

image via (cc) flickr user spyrospapaspyropoulos

Of all the truly awful ways the internet has allowed users to shame, harass, and generally make miserable those on the other side of their screens, perhaps none is quite as vilely invasive as revenge porn, the practice of uploading naked or sexually compromising images—almost entirely of women—without the victim’s consent. Popularized by now-defunct sites like IsAnyoneUp and UGotPosted, revenge porn has remained an insidious form of online torment, to which the law is only now beginning to seriously address. In the last several years, a number of states have passed bills making the practice itself a crime, and next month California representative Jackie Speier is expected to introduce federal legislation to make revenge porn illegal across the country.


The internet, however, is the internet, and presents users with a seemingly endless landscape upon which they can, with minimal effort, operate under a remarkable degree of impunity, regardless of real-world legislation. That landscape, however, became a little tougher for revenge porn operators to navigate after Google announced they would be actively stepping in and allowing victims of revenge porn to request their personal information be removed from the internet giant’s web-searches.

Writes Amit Singhal, senior vice president for Google's Search division:

Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web. But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims—predominantly women. So going forward, we’ll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results. This is a narrow and limited policy, similar to how we treat removal requests for other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results.

He goes on to admit that while this policy is a step in the right direction, it will ultimately not end the practice of revenge porn altogether. Google’s authority extends only as far as its search capacity, and does not cover the websites actually hosting the non-consensually posted images. As Take Part points out, many of those hosting sites are being used to extort victims into paying to have the images removed. And while Google’s new policy won’t remove the sites themselves, it will go a long way toward stunting their reach, online and off. Given the lengths victims of revenge porn have had to go in order to protect their privacy, Google’s efforts are certainly welcome in the fight to make the internet a better place.

The company plans to introduce the take-down forms “in the coming weeks,” and will publish the link on their public policy blog.

[via take part]

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