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Google to remove revenge porn from search results in victory against online harrassment

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The Internet can be a slimy place, but Google is taking a major stance against one of the most despicable practices found on the web — revenge porn. In a blog post released Friday by Amit Singhal, SVP of Google Search, the search engine giant announced plans to honor requests to remove graphic images shared without consent from Google’s results. “In the coming weeks,” the post reads, “We’ll put up a web form people can use to submit these requests to us, and we’ll update this blog post with the link.”

Revenge porn has consistently drawn criticism as perhaps the lowest and most disrespectful form of online harassment, and is one that most often targets women. In fact, according to data from the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), 90 percent of revenge porn targets are women and 93 percent of victims claim to have suffered significant emotional distress due to being a victim. Worse still, 49 percent of revenge porn subjects report being harassed or stalked online by users who saw their material.

This is why Google’s policy change is so important, as the search engine is a key mechanism by which these images are found and distributed. Wrote Singhal, “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.”

Still, and as Google recognizes, this new system will not fully solve the issue of revenge porn, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. More effective measures, however, may also soon be in place, with aides from Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office informing Digital Trends that the lawmaker is completing proposed federal legislation that would criminalize the practice.

And attacking the practice from a cultural standpoint, comedian John Oliver will ridicule and condemn revenge porn on Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight.

So while it’s been a long time coming and the solution still isn’t perfect, steps being taken in both Silicon Valley and Capitol Hill are slowly but surely helping victims of revenge porn achieve some sort of justice.

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