Google’s New Revenge Porn Policy Will Help Women Reclaim Their Lives

Google is taking major step to help victims of revenge porn reclaim their online identities. Soon, the search engine will begin removing stolen nude or sexually explicit images from its search results upon request, Google Senior Vice President Amit Singhal announced in a blog post Friday.

"Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web," Singhal wrote. "But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims—predominantly women."

Read the full post:
Photo: Google/Public Policy Blog
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To be clear, this policy change won't enable Google to actually remove revenge porn images from websites. But it will offer much-needed recourse for revenge porn victims striving to reclaim both their online and offline identities, and the results Google serves up plays a critical role in that process.

"What victims will often tell you and what they tell me is that what they want most is not to have search results where their employers, clients and colleagues can Google them and see these nude photos," University of Maryland law professor and anti-revenge porn legal activist Danielle Citron told USA Today. "It's not just humiliating, it wrecks their chances for employment. It makes them undatable and unemployable."

That potential real-world impact was echoed in a joint comment on Singhal's post from YouTubers and IRL couple Bria Kam and Chrissy Chambers. Chambers recently went public with her legal fight to prosecute an ex-boyfriend on revenge porn-related charges. She alleges he filmed sexually explicit videos of her without her knowledge and published them online without her consent after their breakup.

"As a revenge porn victim, this news is life-changing," Chambers wrote in response to the Google news. "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."

Historically, women who've found their nude photos splashed across user-generated porn sites and forums have had scarce options for getting them taken down. Part of that challenge has stemmed from Google as well as Internet providers treading cautiously around revenge porn removal in the interest of protecting free speech online, NPR reported in 2014. That was the same year conversations about revenge porn began going mainstream, particularly after Jennifer Lawrence and other female celebrities' nude photos were hacked and publicized. Since then, revenge porn has received more concerted political and legal attention in the United States, which lags behind places like the United Kingdom that outlawed it in April.

As Adam Clark Estes notes at Gizmodo, recent state laws and pending federal legislation to directly combat revenge porn have likely emboldened Google. "While debating that legislation is sure to turn into a free speech battle, it’s encouraging that companies as big and powerful as Google are taking a strong stance on this issue," he writes.
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