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Microsoft will remove reported revenge porn links from Bing, OneDrive and Xbox Live

Microsoft set up a page for victims to report revenge porn; links will be removed from Bing, OneDrive and Xbox Live.

Revenge porn
Credit: Shutterstock

Better late than never, Microsoft is cracking down on the "gross violations of privacy" that is revenge porn. Microsoft's promise to remove links to revenge porn follows similar promises from Google, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.

"Unfortunately, revenge porn is on the rise across the globe," wrote Microsoft chief online safety officer Jacqueline Beauchere. "It can damage nearly every aspect of a victim's life: relationships, career, social activities. In the most severe and tragic cases, it has even led to suicide."

Microsoft finally created a form to report content and "help put victims back in control of their images and their privacy." When revenge porn is reported, "Microsoft will remove links to photos and videos from search results in Bing, and remove access to the content itself when shared on OneDrive or Xbox Live, when we are notified by a victim."

Beauchere called the reporting mechanism a "small step," but "by helping to address requests and to remove these extremely personal photos and videos from our services, we can better support victims as they work to re-claim their privacy, and help to push just a little further in the fight against this despicable practice."

As Beauchere pointed out, "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 -- victims still need stronger protections across the Web and around the world."

Microsoft page to report revenge porn Microsoft

Microsoft's move comes one day before Rep. Jackie Speier is expected to introduce legislation to criminalize the act of posting revenge porn, aka "nonconsensual pornography." Her bill is known as the Intimate Privacy Protection Act. "It would ban photos of genitalia including post-pubescent nipples and videos of specific body parts and sexual acts if the non-consenting person depicted is identifiable by either their face or name," according to The Hill.

Some civil liberty folks are concerned that if the bill is written too narrowly then it could violate the First Amendment. In response, Speier told The Hill, "Like sensitive financial and medical information, nonconsensual pornography is fundamentally a privacy issue, on which the government can legislate. I'm very concerned about protecting First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, so I've included extensive safeguards for them so that we can secure people's privacy while still safeguarding people's free speech rights."

Currently, 26 states have no specific laws about revenge porn, while 24 states have criminalized it. A report (pdf) published last week by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) said, "Revenge porn has many negative effects, including damaged reputations, abusive communications from strangers, emotional damage, and the often all-too-real threat of violence." The emotional toll from being harassed online "can be devastating. One psychologist explains that victims of online harassment feel like their tormentors are haunting them both online and off."

Revenge porn can also lead to feelings of powerlessness, as victims are often denied when they ask a website to take down compromising images. Even when a victim is able to convince a website to take an image down, another website may put it up. This harrowing game of whack-a-mole further leads to emotional distress and damage. Victims who own the image copyrights can ask websites to remove these images, but they may have to hire lawyers to enforce their requests. Other victims face "sextortion" websites running shakedown schemes that charge fees for image removal.

In order to avoid federal legislation that outlaws less malicious behavior or infringes on free speech, it "should include an intent clause and a knowledge standard," ITIF said. Furthermore, ITIF suggested that Congress should define "sexually explicit material;" the FBI should create a special unit to assist victims of nonconsensual porn; and the DOJ should work with the private sector to come up with "best practices for online services to quickly remove" revenge porn.

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