Justice

John Oliver Tackles Revenge Porn and Online Harassment

Google is the latest company to take a stand against revenge porn, joining other tech giants such as Twitter and Reddit in reining in what has become for many Internet users a damaging and traumatic invasion of privacy. The company said it would "honor requests from people to remove nude of sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results" in a statement on its public policy blog Friday, the Guardian reported.

The practice, which involves the sharing of explicit photos of someone without their permission, has become a source of often severe stress for victims, and a celebrated avenue for revenge for jealous exes, vindictive hackers, or anyone wishing to swiftly jeopardize the well being of someone they have or can get compromising photos of. But surprisingly, this particularly damaging form of online harassment is largely able to continue unabated, with no explicit federal law policing it.

Google's announcement comes both alongside other tech companies' decisions to take stands against revenge porn and a growing body of legislation across 23 U.S. states. But there's also an increasing public concern over the practice and the fact that it has been allowed to sail under law enforcement's radar for so long. Many who report the crime to police still hit walls of either technological ineptitude or cultural naivety.

As comedian John Oliver pointed out in a segment on the practice last night, victims face a decidedly uphill battle.

"If you are a victim of revenge porn in one of those 27 states, your options are limited; you can try to pursue stalking or harassment charges, but those laws may not always apply, or you can file a civil suit against the person who did it," even though that process could mean thousands in legal fees. Victims can also sue to have the images or videos removed, but that process could involve, bafflingly, sending nude photos of yourself to the U.S. Copyright Office in Washington in order to register a trademark and claim infringement.

As Oliver points out, critics often revert to saying that victims shouldn't have taken photos of themselves in the first place, which, while true in a black and white practical sense, embodies a "distinctly victim-blamey sentiment" that is "hard-wired into mainstream culture" whenever a new case gains attention. Another sentiment often echoed in these cases is that the Internet is just the Internet; it's not real, so just turn off the computer and let it blow over. But as Oliver notes: "it is [real life], and it always has been," adding that the selling point of the Internet two decades ago was that "what you did online would affect your life immediately."

Check out the full video below: