Google cracks down on revenge porn

A letter to our supporters:

The Cyber Civil Rights Initiative is thrilled to have played a leading role in this week’s breaking developments on the issue of nonconsensual pornography. You know an issue is at the cutting edge of change when John Oliver features it. It was a delight for several of us to work with producers on Last Week Tonight’s feature about nonconsensual porn.

When we started the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative’s campaign to end “revenge porn,” we faced a seemingly impossible task. People told us we’d never get legislators on board; as of today, nearly half of all states have passed laws criminalizing this conduct and we are working with Congress on a federal bill. People told us “revenge porn” website operators were safe from prosecution, but yet we’ve seen one after another arrested and their sites darkened. People told us we’d never be able to convince tech companies to take action, and now one powerful company after another has announced policies banning nonconsensual pornography.

We are overjoyed to say that, after months of collaboration and dialogue, we can now add Google to that list. Google has announced a drastic change to its search policy: In the coming weeks, Google will honor requests to remove sexually explicit images that were published without consent.

“Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web,” Amit Signhal, Senior Vice President of Google Search said in a blogpost today. “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.”

We are proud to see that our work to help current victims and to prevent future victims has had such an impact. The momentum is extraordinary, and we hope it will continue. We couldn’t have accomplished what we have so far or continued to fight against online abuse without your encouragement and support. Please consider donating to our cause to help us keep up the good fight.

So sincerely yours,

Holly, Mary Anne, Charlotte, Christina, Carrie, Annmarie, Anisha, Christa, & Natalie

Board of Directors & Volunteers, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

Infographic: The Anatomy of an Effective Revenge Porn Law

The Anatomy of an Effective Revenge Porn Law

Anatomy of an RP law

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Seven Reasons Illinois is Leading the Fight Against Revenge Porn

Prof. Mary Anne Franks (left) and Rep. Scott Drury (right) present the IL “revenge porn” bill to the Judiciary committee in Springfield, IL.


Just in time for 2015, Governor Pat Quinn (D) announced a New Year’s resolution for the state of Illinois: end revenge porn. On Monday Quinn signed a new law making it a felony to post sexual videos or photos of another person without his or her permission. It goes into effect June 1, 2015. The law, modeled after legislation crafted by Professor Mary Anne Franks, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI)’s Legislative and Tech Policy Director, criminalizes the practice of non-consensual pornography. Illinois residents have Representative Scott Drury (D) to thank both for sponsoring this law and tirelessly defending its integrity during an unusually lengthy and tumultuous legislative process. Of the sixteen states that have passed some form of revenge porn legislation, Illinois’s law is the best. Here’s why:

  1.  Motive doesn’t matter. Illogically, some states’ laws require that the offender have the intent to cause emotional distress to the victim. While the intent to cause distress may drive the offender’s behavior in the classic revenge porn case – punishing an ex after a breakup –perpetrators can be driven by a number of other motivations. Some people engage in non-consensual pornography out of a desire for financial gain, for the “lulz,” for entertainment, for sexual gratification, or for no particular reason at all. Intent to harm requirements leave many serious violations of sexual privacy beyond the reach of the law – consider the celebrity “nude photo” hack and vicious GamerGate attacks against female game developers. Illinois’s law wisely prioritizes the harm to the victim over the motive of the offender. After all, the harm is devastating no matter the offender’s motivation.
  2. Selfies are included. The Illinois law applies to images that victims take of themselves.California’s original 2013 “revenge porn” law, for example, only applied to images taken by somebody other than the victim. Fortunately, California amended its law in 2014 following input from CCRI. The vast majority of intimate images (83%) originate as selfies.
  3. Strong punishments. Illinois leads the pack in taking this crime seriously. It does so in two ways: First, the law makes non-consensual pornography a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years in prison, while also hitting perpetrators in the wallet with fines up to $25,000 and restitution to victims for any costs incurred. Secondly, it includes an additional provision requiring forfeiture of any profits derived from the distribution of the material.
  4. Not just nudity. Some laws only apply when a victim’s “sexual parts” are exposed. The Illinois law, by contrast, recognizes that not all intimate sexual acts involve nudity. For instance, the Illinois law would apply when a victim is depicted performing oral sex or has been ejaculated upon, regardless of whether the victim is nude.
  5. Downstream distributors. Several revenge porn laws punish only the original non-consensual distribution, doing nothing to deter secondary recipients from forwarding and redistributing the images. Illinois solves that problem by employing a “reasonable person” standard. The law considers whether a reasonable person would know or understand that the image was to remain private and that the person depicted has not consented to the dissemination. This provision will help prevent material from going viral when it is clear that the distribution is non-consensual. In other words, this law requires that people think before they click.
  6. It honors the First Amendment. The Illinois law is narrowly tailored, so as not to sweep up expressive conduct vital to a free society. The statute doesn’t apply to images that are distributed for a “lawful public purpose.” Other exceptions include images that are distributed in connection with the reporting of unlawful conduct, lawful criminal investigations, and images depicting voluntary exposure in public or commercial settings. That means no journalist ever has to fear being prosecuted under this law for publishing photographs of a topless protest and no porn enthusiast needs to worry about going to jail for forwarding links to his favorite commercial hardcore sites.
  7. Doxxing. The Illinois law recognizes that personal identifying information of over half (59%) of victims is posted alongside nude images, including the victim’s full name, email address, social network screenshots, home address, workplace, school etc. The harm caused by the publication of this identifying information cannot be overstated. This disclosure of private information jeopardizes victims’ employment, employability, relationships, reputation, and safety. Revenge porn consumers often interpret victims’ contact information as an invitation to stalk and threaten them, and the material often dominates victims’ online presence. The Illinois law applies when a victim is identifiable from his or her face as well as when as other identifying information is displayed in connection with the image.

 

By Carrie Goldberg, Esq., a lawyer in Brooklyn at C. A. Goldberg, PLLC and board member at Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.

Donate $3, Save a Victim

With just $3, you can save a victim. Click here to donate.

$3 provides a victim of nonconsensual pornography with crisis counseling, technical advice, and service referrals through our helpline.

$10 helps us perform legal research and advocate for legislation against nonconsensual pornography.

$25 enables us to start giving presentations about nonconsensual pornography in middle schools, high schools, and universities around the US.

$50 supports our research on the prevalence, nature, and effects of nonconsensual pornography so that we can further educate the public about it and provide better support and resources to the victims of it.

Prefer to donate your time instead?

Great! We’re currently seeking more fundraising and social media volunteers. Click here to apply.

*Please note: The links above will take you to the website for Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), the organization that runs the End Revenge Porn campaign.

Victim of Nonconsensual Pornography in the US? Call our Crisis Helpline.

It’s been just over a year since Cyber Civil Rights Initiative incorporated as a non-profit and we are finally able to offer a service that victims of nonconsensual pornography (i.e., revenge porn) desperately need: A Helpline*.

The first person I called when I learned my ex-boyfriend created an eBay auction and tried to sell a CD of 88 nude images of me was my therapist. It was after 4pm on a Friday. When she answered her phone, I blurted out the story to her and pleaded for her to help me, to tell me what to do. I was sure she’d talk me through the panic, help me make a plan to deal with this, and stay on the phone with me until I was ready to take the next steps.

She did none of that. Her response wasn’t dismissive; she had just finished up with a client and was getting ready to leave for the weekend. Her tone was firm and gentle. She assured me I was strong enough to handle this. We set an appointment for Monday.

Then I called my mother. She was dismissive. She rushed me off the phone, speaking in code. I understood right away; she didn’t want my father to know what was happening. These things were best handled between my mother and I when she could speak freely.

The night before the auction went live, I contacted the police and explained what was happening–that my ex was threatening to sell a CD of nude images of me. Surely this was illegal, I implored. The officers I spoke with were far from helpful. They were condescending. They were cruelly dismissive.

I don’t fault my therapist or mother for the reaction I received. We had never heard of anyone doing something like that. There had been no discussions of this reprehensible behavior. There was no language to adequately describe what he did. The closest I could think was to call it online harassment and stalking. Without language, without someone to guide, comfort and reassure me, I felt painfully isolated.

I keep that isolated feeling close to the surface every time I interact with a victim in my role as victim advocate for CCRI. I remember what I desperately needed and wanted and strive to be that person for those who reach out to us for support and guidance. Through the process of researching and vetting resources, I put together a reference guide that I would refer to when answering victims’ emails.

As CCRI grew, the demand for services for our victims increased. I offered to put my cobbled-together notes into a more comprehensive training manual for when we were ready to take on new volunteers. But in September, my project took on a new urgency as we began the process to start the CCRI Crisis Helpline.

What I initially thought was going to be a 3 or 4-page document grew into a 45-page manual by the end of the first day of writing. This is why our helpline is so important. Victims finally have access to a resource that brings together the experiences and knowledge of all of CCRI’s advocates. Victims will no longer be dismissed when they make that first call.

The goal of CCRI as we expand our services is to ensure reliable, consistent resources for victims in need. The training manual and launch of the helpline are two more steps towards meeting that goal, a goal that we need your help to reach. Your donations will allow us to keep this helpline up and running, and eventually extend it to victims outside of the US. Every donation answers another call from victims who have nowhere else to go. Donate here and help us end revenge porn!

Love,

Annmarie Chiarini

 

If you are a victim of nonconsensual pornography, call our CCRI Crisis Helpline: 844-878-CCRI(2274).

*Until further notice, the CCRI Crisis Helpline will only be able provide assistance to victims calling from within the US.