Categories: Regulation

Google Bans ‘Revenge Porn’ From Search

Google has said it will honour requests to remove “revenge porn” from its search listings, in a departure from the company’s usual policies, which have seen it resist efforts to limit what is viewable in search.

“Our philosophy has always been that search should reflect the whole web,” said Google senior vice president Amit Singhal in a Friday blog post. “But revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims—predominantly women.”

The company argued such material – imagery posted without the subject’s consent, for purposes of humiliation or extortion – would be treated in a way similar to removal requests for “other highly sensitive personal information, such as bank account numbers and signatures, that may surface in our search results”.

Singhal called the move a “narrow and limited policy”.

Google said it plans to introduce a web form that can be used to submit removal requests, and that the form would be linked from the blog post.

A change in the law introduced earlier this year in England and Wales means those sharing intimate images or videos of a former partner without their permission can face up to two years in prison, with Scotland and Northern Ireland considering similar laws.

Revenge porn laws have also been passed in 21 US states, including California, Texas and Utah, and legislation for a federal ban is expected to be introduced in Congress this year.

Twitter, Facebook and Reddit are amongst the Internet companies that have banned the posting of intimate photos without the subject’s permission.

‘Right to be forgotten’

Google’s new policy contrasts with its high-profile resistance to compliance with European law regarding the “right to be forgotten”, which requires the search giant to remove references that may be harmful to individuals’ reputations under certain circumstances, such as if the material describes crimes for which the individual has completed a course of correctional action.

Google resisted implementing the law, finally offering a right-to-be-forgotten option last year, and later in the year held a series of symposia around Europe designed to present its point of view on the issue.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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