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
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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:
$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.
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.
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!
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.