Google agrees to remove revenge porn pix from search results

Reuters / Jason Lee
Google will now honor requests to remove revenge porn, explicit images put online for the purpose of cyber-bullying.

The policy update was announced by Senior Vice President Amit Singhal in his blog for the world’s most popular online search engine.

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. So going forward, we’ll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results.

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,” he said.

READ MORE: Revenge isn’t tweet: Twitter cracks down on ‘revenge porn’ abusers

The problem of revenge porn has grown as digital cameras and services that store content online were becoming more readily accessible. Some websites now specialize in storing such photos and videos, usually provided by disgruntled ex-partners of the victim.

Some of those even resort to “sextortion,” where the victim is forced to pay money to have the embarrassing material removed. In March, Kevin Bollaert, a 28-year-old man from San Diego, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for operating a sextortion website.

Activists and lawyers are seeking to outlaw this form of cyber-bullying, which can be very stressful for their victims. In 2013, a 17-year-old Brazilian woman, Julia Rebecca, committed suicide after a sex tape of her was released online. The incident sparked outrage in the country.

In the US there was the infamous case of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, whose ultimately fatal ordeal involved release of her explicit image online.

Google says it will roll out an online form for revenge porn blockage requests in a few weeks. The tech giant says it will treat them as it does request concerning sensitive information like bank account numbers or social security numbers that can surface in search results.

The company said it would be a “narrow and limited policy,” so apparently people victimized with embarrassing but not explicit images of them should not apply for such protection.