Google Finally Takes A Stand Against Revenge Porn

Google Logo in Building43.
Google Logo in Building43.

Google wants to help victims of revenge porn.

Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, announced in a blog post Friday that the company will soon honor requests from victims to remove nude or sexually explicit images from the search engine.

"Revenge porn" refers to sensitive content distributed without an individual's permission. It's become a massive problem in recent years: Kevin Bollaert, a San Diego man who extorted money from victims to remove such images from his website, was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison; and celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence fell victim to a major hacking last year that left their private photos exposed.

The new decision from Google is in some ways contrary to the company's mission to put the entire Web at a user's fingertips. Singhal acknowledges that in his post:

[R]evenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims — predominantly women. ... 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.

Google plans to release a Web form for individuals to submit requests for the removal of revenge porn. It is not available yet, and a representative for Google did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

Of course, this is not a perfect solution. While Google can remove the results from search, it doesn't have the ability to scrub content from websites. But it's a big step toward making sure revenge content goes unseen.