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Google to shut the door on 'revenge porn'

The Internet powerhouse says it will take steps to clean "intensely personal and emotionally damaging" images from its search results.

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Sexually explicit images shared without the subject's consent will soon start vanishing from Google's search results.

The new policy, which will go into effect in the coming weeks, is intended to combat a practice known as "revenge porn," a dark side of the ease with which information can be shared across the wide-open terrain of the Internet and especially on social media.

"Revenge porn images are intensely personal and emotionally damaging, and serve only to degrade the victims--predominantly women," Google said in blog post Friday. "So going forward, we'll honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results."


Typically, the revealing images and personal information have been posted online by angry former lovers looking to cause pain and suffering, whether simply through exposure or -- worse -- as an incitement to violence. It isn't simply that the images are posted online but that they get shared, and as they appear in more places, can rise up the ranks of search results.

Google said it will make available a Web form through which people can request the removal of such images.

The search giant isn't alone in looking for ways to put a lid on revenge porn. In March, Twitter set up new rules that prohibit the posting of images of nudity or sexual acts without the subject's permission. A month before that, Reddit updated its privacy policy to forbid "involuntary pornography."

Facebook, meanwhile, has a team of people dedicated to handling user complaints about sexually explicit images, as well as hate speech and other forms of harassment.

The new policy at Google and other sites is a big step, but fighting any form of online harassment is an uphill battle. In the absence of strict legal regulations, companies, organizations and even lawyers have sprung up to help overwhelmed victims of revenge porn. Many services send takedown demands to websites.

"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," Google said. "But we hope that honoring people's requests to remove such imagery from our search results can help."

For some, it already has.

"As a revenge porn victim, this news is life-changing," commenter Bria Chrissy responded on Google's blog. "This change is going to help countless victims and will save lives, thank you."