Published On: Thu, Jul 23rd, 2015

Microsoft Seeks Revenge Porn Removal Requests

Microsoft is inviting “revenge porn” victims to use an online form to help it restrict access to the images.It follows Google, Twitter and Reddit, which have all recently acted to help people get sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves blocked or made harder to find.

Microsoft seeks revenge porn

Microsoft said its creation of a special reporting page represented “one small step in a growing and much-needed effort” to tackle the problem.

Campaigners welcomed the news.

“It is great news that technology giants are waking up to the misery that ‘revenge porn’ can cause for young people and adults, and are giving victims the chance to stop intimate and personal material from circulating freely on the internet without consent,” said Lauren Seager-Smith, national coordinator of the UK-based Anti-Bullying Alliance.

“But technology can only do so much.

“We need to educate young people to be vigilant that the private images they share of themselves can become public at the click of a button.

“Schools and parents have a vital role in encouraging young people to build positive and respectful relationships online and offline, where the privacy of others is respected.”

Missing links

Microsoft’s form asks users to confirm they never agreed to the distribution of the images and to identify web pages on which they appear.

The US company said it would subsequently remove links to the material from its Bing search engine results and the content itself if shared on its OneDrive and Xbox Live cloud services.

However, it acknowledged this only went part of the way towards solving the issue.

“It’s important to remember, for example, that removing links in search results to content hosted elsewhere online doesn’t actually remove the content from the internet,” wrote its chief online safety officer, Jacqueline Beauchere.

“Victims still need stronger protections across the web and around the world.”

For now, the form is only available in English, but Microsoft said it would provide versions in other languages soon.

Censored searches

The move comes a fortnight after Google created a webform of its own, promising to “honour requests” that images shared without victims’ consent be removed from its search results.

Several commentators noted that this contrasted with Google’s reluctance to offer users outside the EU the “right to be forgotten” for other reasons.

Twitter has long banned pornographic images, but it still took the additional step of warning users in March that they faced being locked out of their accounts it it received complaints of them distributing intimate images without the subject’s consent.

The same month, Reddit banned such material from its site, following complaints that some of its subreddit forums had been used as hubs to share stolen nude images of celebrities.

The news-comment site later revealed that it had received 17 such requests over its first two months operating the policy.

In the US – where Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Reddit are based – 24 states, including California, have now introduced criminal laws against revenge porn, while others have bills pending.

England and Wales also recently made it a specific criminal offence to share sexual images either on or offline without the subject’s permission and with the intent to cause harm.

Last month, a man from Romford became the first person to be convicted of the crime, and other cases have followed.