Microsoft Cracks Down On Revenge Porn With New Website That Helps Take Down Revenge Porn Pictures From Bing

It's an all too common scenario: A person takes (or allows someone she trusts to take) naked photos and sends them to a loved one. There is nothing wrong with taking nude photos, and in a perfect world, anyone who takes them shouldn't have to worry about the recipient doing anything questionable should the couple later break up. But for some horrible, terrible reason, what has become the norm is this: The ex, as a vengeful and disgusting means of protecting his or her ego, submits the photos to public websites without their subject's consent, perpetuating the awful trend known as "revenge porn." Thankfully, though, some search engines are doing their part to crack down on revenge porn through methods like this new website from Microsoft that accepts requests to have revenge porn images removed from Bing.

At the heart of the issue of revenge porn are questions about consent and one's right to images of her own body. That's why this reporting form, which asks ou to report what you want removed and whether you had agreed to the distribution of the photo or video in the first place, among other things, is such a positive step for revenge porn activists (and, you know, just human beings with consciences): It's putting some semblance of power and control back into the hands of victims, in a scary world where victims frequently have little tangible means of getting justice. Wonderfully, similar efforts to support revenge porn victims have been made in recent months by Google, which says it will remove revenge porn images upon request, and Reddit and Twitter, which both have added clauses to their privacy policies to include revenge porn as an element of "abusive behavior," as well as exactly how victims ought to go about reporting it.

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While big Internet players like these are making important progress in terms of protecting revenge porn victims, we are still sort of in the wild west in terms of laws on the subject. Shockingly, there is still little legal support for the people who are the subjects of these highly damaging and personal attacks. According to End Revenge Porn, an activist site, only 24 states even have laws against revenge porn. That means that in more than 50 percent of the United States, revenge porn isn't considered a crime. In these other states, victims have to try and get protection under harassment or stalking laws, many of which require the production of an impossible burden of proof that the posting of the photos was non-consensual. And, as Amanda Hess highlighted in her 2014 Pacific Standard piece, "Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet," many harassment and stalking laws — and law enforcement personnel in general — just aren't equipped to deal with these problems in the online world.

Inexplicably, many courts have trouble siding with victims who argue that they took photos consensually at the time, but didn't consent to having those images shared all over the Internet. The troubling argument against these victims often comes down to a big, old, offensive, "Well, you shouldn't have taken naked photos in the first place if you didn't want them posted online without your go-ahead." But you know what? No.

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That line of reasoning doesn't hold water. It's the same point we keep making again and again and again: Instead of teaching people not to take naked photos, we should be teaching people not to share those photos without their subject's consent. We should all be free to take whatever photographs we like of ourselves without worrying that someone else is going to post them all over the Internet without our knowledge.

While the work of activists like Emma Holten who are speaking up and fighting back against revenge porn is inspiring, and the strides made by Internet behemoths like Google, Bing, Twitter, and Reddit are great, we still have a long way to go before revenge porn victims have a reliable, safe, and practical means of reclaiming their images and their bodies. It's an uphill battle, but it really is a fight worth fighting.

Images: Kayla C/Flickr; Giphy (2)