Google Just Made Life a Little Easier for Victims of Revenge Porn

The Internet company can’t remove the images, but it will make them much harder to find.
(Photo: Said Khatib)
Jun 21, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Whatever your opinion about taking or sharing nude photos, when a jilted ex or an Internet hacker posts those images or videos online without the woman’s permission, it’s a violation of consent that can have long-term effects on the person violated.

Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have instated policies outlawing such images from their sites, and now Google officials have announced they will do their part as well.

Similar to the way it removes other personal information, such as bank accounts or social security numbers, from search results, Google will now honor requests to remove explicit pictures.

“Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web,” Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, wrote in a blog post on Friday. “But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victim—predominantly women.”

Google will post a form in the coming weeks for women to submit requests.

Ninety percent of revenge porn victims are women, according to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Almost 60 percent of images or videos uploaded include personal information, including the woman’s full name and social media information, and some go so far as to include a home address. Up to 93 percent of victims report emotional distress owing to this harassment.

Google doesn’t have the authority to shut down the websites hosting the images or delete them from the Web, but eliminating the harmful images from its search function makes them harder to find and associate.

So, Why Should You Care? These images often end up on “sextortion” sites, where women are forced to pay to have their image removed. Instead of paying the blackmailer or waiting for a court proceeding, Google offers a solution for women who don’t want a potential employer, friend, or family member putting their name in the search engine and finding an explicit photo or video instead of their LinkedIn profile.

Twenty-one states have signed legislation criminalizing revenge porn. But the penalties and severity of violation, including invasion of privacy, harassment, disorderly conduct, and sexual offense, vary from state to state. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., is set to introduce a federal law banning revenge porn, according to USA Today.

As victims await prosecution of their attackers, many are praising Google’s move in the blog’s comments.

“As a revenge porn victim, this news is life-changing,” wrote Bria Chrissy. “Finally, I can begin combatting the harsh reality I’ve faced daily for two years—that my sexual assault and the revenge porn videos of it live online with no remedy to remove them from search results. This change is going to help countless victims and will save lives, thank you.”