Microsoft joins Google in war on revenge porn with removal requests

Both Google and Bing will allow people in explicit images to request they be removed from search results

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Microsoft has joined Google in allowing users to request so-called 'revenge porn' images be removed from search results.

As is the case with 'right to be forgotten' requests, anyone in photos related to revenge porn can fill in a form and ask for Google or Microsoft to take the picture down from Google search or Bing, respectively.

A dedicated website for reporting such content has been opened by Microsoft, with the company promising to remove links from Bing search results, OneDrive and Xbox Live.

In a blog post, Microsoft's chief online safety officer Jacqueline Beauchere said: "Clearly, this reporting mechanism is but one small step in a growing and much-needed effort across the public and private sectors to address the problem.

"Much needs to be done to address the problem. As a first step, we want to help put victims back in control of their images and their privacy."

It is thought unlikely that Google or Microsoft will reject many of these requests, nor take a long time to resolve them, as goverments are also cracking down on the use of revenge porn as harassment.

In February, posting nude or explicit photos of someone online without their permission became illegal in England and Wales, carrying a maximum penalty of two-years in prison prison. Northern Ireland and Scotland are considering the introduction of similar laws.

This week, the first person to be convicted for such an offence was revealed, and will be sentenced next month.

Amit Singhal, Google's senior vice president of search,  said: "Our philosophy has always been that Search should reflect the whole web. 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."

Twitter has also announced it is stamping out revenge porn images posted to its platform.

"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 but we hope that honoring people's requests to remove such imagery from our search results can help," Singhal concluded.

This article was originally published on 21/06/15 and has been updated multiple times (most recently on 23/07/15)

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