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Google is giving revenge porn victims the right to be forgotten

By Alice Truong

Deputy editor

Google today took a stand against revenge porn, saying it will honor requests to remove intimate images and videos shared without the consent of subjects from its search results. It will make a web form available in the coming weeks for people to submit their requests.

“We know this won’t solve the problem of revenge porn—we aren’t able, of course, to remove these images from the websites themselves—but we hope that honoring people’s requests to remove such imagery from our search results can help,” Amit Singhal, senior vice president of search, said in a blog post.

That’s a very different attitude—and far more proactive approach—than its compliance with “the right to be forgotten,” a ruling last year by the European Union mandating Google remove search results from individuals when asked, if the results are irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise inappropriate. Google hasn’t exactly been forthcoming, with passive-aggressive disclaimers and tactics. Regarding the matter, the search company has always maintained that it’s a “neutral intermediary” and not in the business of censorship.

A 2012-2013 survey from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative found that one in 10 ex-partners have threatened to post revenge porn, and 60% of them followed through on their threats. The overwhelming majority (90%) of victims are women, and about half of all victims reported being harassed or stalked online by people who have viewed their images shared without consent.

As a result, victims have been lobbying lawmakers to outlaw the practice. Revenge porn is illegal in England and Wales. In the US, it is illegal in more than a dozen states, and Congress is expected to introduce a bill that would make it a federal crime.

Tech companies are also taking on a bigger role curtailing its distribution. Aside from Google, Twitter instated new rules in March banning the posting of intimate photos or videos without a subject’s consent. Violators can have their accounts delisted from its search results or terminated.

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