Microsoft Targets Revenge Porn With Link Removal Form

Next Story

Line Launches Lightweight Version Of Its Chat App For Emerging Market Android Phones

Falling in step with various recent industry moves, Microsoft has set up a formal process for removing links to so-called ‘revenge porn’ from its Bing search engine, allowing victims to notify it via a dedicated web form to have access to the content cut off.

Revenge porn refers to the sharing of intimate photographs online without the consent of the person in the photographs in an attempt to humiliate the victim. It’s a privacy breach that disproportionately affects women. And while search engine firms can’t remove this type of content from the Internet, they can limit access to it by making it harder for people to find online.

Detailing the move in a blog post yesterday, Microsoft’s chief online safety officer, Jacqueline Beauchere, said it will also be cutting off access to revenge porn when it is shared via its OneDrive cloud storage service or the Xbox Live games service, as well as searched for via Bing.

The move is aimed at helping “put victims back in control of their images and their privacy,” she writes, adding:

Microsoft remains committed to continuing to work with leaders and experts worldwide on this evolving subject, and we expect to learn a great deal as the process moves forward. In the meantime, our hope is that 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.

While the company had apparently been processing reports of revenge porn content from victims prior to this move, it’s now formalized the process with a dedicated reporting page to make it easier for victims to have their request dealt with. Link access is removed globally.

Last month Google also said it would be launching a formal process for removing links to revenge porn. Earlier this month it launched the page, which can be found here

Unlike Microsoft’s easy-to-parse, single-page form approach to revenge porn removal requests, Google’s form is a decision-tree requiring users answer certain questions to unlock additional portions of the reporting process. (Google does also process requests to remove other sensitive info via the same form, such as bank account details.) 

Both companies ask victims to specify if they ever consented to the sharing of the photo or video content they wish to remove links to. 

In Europe, both Google and Microsoft also process so called ‘right to be forgotten‘ requests to comply with European data protection law. This law affords private individuals the right to requests that information associated with a search for their name is delisted from search results if it is outdated, irrelevant or erroneous.

Google has continued resisting calls by European data protection regulators to delist right-to-be-forgotten content globally, limiting link removal for these requests to European sub-domains. It has also lobbied hard against the principle of the ruling, despite not objecting to processing removal requests for copyrighted information and other data it deems ‘sensitive,’ such as bank account details.

The issue of revenge porn highlights the negative impact of pervasive, trivially easy access to personal information online that is enabled — you could even say ‘enforced’ — by powerful search algorithms. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the notion of any search engine providing ‘comprehensive access to the world’s information’ is both not true and also a commercial imperative disingenuously dressed up as ideology.