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Removal from a search engine is critical to victims, as it removes the opportunity for internet users to continue to find the revenge porn through searches.
Bristow said he encourages victims to register their photos and videos with the federal copyright office, because copyright infringement is a federal infringement, and a suit against the perpetrators can be brought in federal court. "Then, when you sue for copyright damages, it's a criminal offense, and there are statutory offenses."
Elisa D'Amico, founder of Cyber Civil Rights Legal Projects and a litigator with K&L Gates law firm in Miami, said if someone is not suing in federal court, a selfie doesn't need to have a copyright – it's your image, and you can request removal based on a copyright violation. If someone else took the photograph, "You can request the photographer to assign copyright notice to the individual, and they will often agree – even the perpetrator will often agree, at least they will once a lawyer gets involved. For most victims, they just want the images down."
She recommends victims have a Google alert set up by their name, which will ping when something comes up by their name or image. "That way they can find out if their images have been copied or reposted to another website, even if they've been told it's been taken down," noting the internet is "the gift that keeps giving.
"Pornography is supposed to be something that is enjoyable – it's not taboo anymore," D'Amico noted. "What we're talking about isn't enjoyable. It's meant to hurt, humiliate, destroy someone else. It's also called sexual cyber harassment, sextortion, or cyber exploitation."
Walton said that is because revenge porn "is not sexual – it's a control issue. Anytime you're trying to reach across and hurt someone physically or emotionally, it's about control. Why else would you do it?"
Many revenge porn websites are hosted outside the United States, in Somalia, Columbia, eastern Europe, or the Caribbean, and can be hard for victims to go after. Many sites permit visitors to leave comments, which tend to be sexual, crude, insulting, and vindictive, intensifying the victim's shame. A few of the sites have asked the victims for money in exchange for removing the victims – extorting them, in essence – and then failing to remove the images.
"It's a little bit of whack a mole or cat and mouse," acknowledged D'Amico, agreeing that all the major social media and technology companies are on board with ridding themselves of the images as soon as they're notified. "If you do something dumb as a young adult, you can't get it off, but if it's something without consent, the search engines are all onboard as improper violations."...continued on page 7