Google launches ‘right to be forgotten’ for revenge-porn victims

Victim advocates say this is a great step in the right direction.

 

Kevin Collier

Tech

Published Jun 19, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 1:03 pm CDT

For Americans, there is no “right to be forgotten”—a legal pledge that if there’s information about you online that you don’t want seen, the government may help you hide it. But in a major development for victims of revenge porn, Google will now take steps to make it harder for people searching for your most vulnerable moments to be able to find them.

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“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,” senior vice president of search Amit Singhal wrote in a statement posted to Google’s public policy blog.

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Those who have long fought to empower victims of non-consensual pornography say Google’s new policy is a major step in the right direction.

“This was monumental. Google’s decision to ban revenge porn from their search engine functionality makes the bold statement that sexual information should be ours to control,” Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer who specializes in online privacy and helping revenge porn victims, told the Daily Dot. Goldberg’s organization, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, was involved in discussions with Google over its revenge porn stance.

“In one month alone, Google directed an average of 27 million views to one of the more popular revenge porn websites,” she said. “It’s going to save so many people from so many unnecessary views.”

Legally speaking, it’s tricky for the U.S. government to force someone to take a photo offline if it wasn’t obtained illegally, thanks to the First Amendment. But there’s no reason that a private company like Google, which has refined its search engine countless times, can’t tailor searches how it sees fit.

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The search engine already limits access to certain pirated material, images of child sexual abuse, and stolen financial information. Google will set up a Web form in the coming weeks to allow victims to request their images be removed from Google Search.

“This move recognizes the hell that victims go through and makes Google no longer complicit in driving web traffic to these images,” Goldberg said. 

Image via Google | Remix by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Jun 19, 2015, 5:26 pm CDT