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Steps You Can Take Today to Help Prevent (or Deal With) Revenge Porn

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health & Sex Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist, adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University and has written for publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Rolling...

What you need to know if you're a victim of revenge porn

Thanks to smartphones and social media, it's never been easier to stay in touch with friends and family around the world, instantly sending audiovisual messages and greetings. The downside is that it has also never been easier to release revenge porn, where sexually explicit images or videos are released on the internet — frequently by a former partner — without a person's consent.

In order to combat revenge porn, YouPorn, which bills itself as "the world's #1 destination for unlimited high-quality free HD porn" partnered with The Danish Women's Society (a women's rights organization) to launch the #AskFirst campaign. This multifaceted project involves a dedicated educational channel on the YouPorn site, an awareness-raising video and a new content-removal requests page. This tool would allow anyone who has become a target of revenge porn, blackmail or intimidation to request that the material be swiftly removed from the site.

More: What Rob Kardashian Did to Blac Chyna Isn't Just Revenge Porn — It's Abuse

“We are gratified to support the #AskFirst campaign with The Danish Women’s Society because revenge porn is not only life-threatening but completely unacceptable,” Charlie Hughes, vice president of YouPorn, said in a statement sent to SheKnows via email. “We offer an inclusive experience for our users and are proud to make our stance on this issue known publicly. When we were approached with the opportunity to be part of this campaign, we knew this would be a perfect match.” 

What to do if you're a victim of revenge porn

If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being the victim of revenge porn, there are a few steps you can take to do damage control. Patrick Ambron, CEO of BrandYourself, an online reputation-management platform, has a few tips:

1. Understand how far the damage has spread & document it

"It's common for revenge porn to be posted across multiple related sites," Ambron tells SheKnows. "Do a deep-dive in Google to uncover any other places it might be on the web."

2. Get what you can taken down

Although Ambron says it's difficult to get material removed from the internet, there are some options — including the recently launched content-removal form from YouPorn. Other possibilities include:

  • Google take-down request: In 2015, Google publicly took a stand against revenge porn and committed to honoring requests to remove revenge porn from its search results, Ambron explains. You can file a removal request with Google here, keeping in mind that this only removes the content from Google's search results and not from the website it's posted on.
  • Leveraging copyright laws to file a DMCA takedown request: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects copyrighted information on the web and allows consumers to submit a removal request to a website if the site has used their content without their permission, Ambron says.

    "For a DMCA takedown to work, you must be able to prove that you are the copyright owner of the image/video in question and submit the request directly to the website that the content is hosted on (not to the person who posted it)."

    Around 80 percent of revenge porn images are considered selfies, so if it’s your picture, you own the copyright. Many major sites have forms to submit a DMCA takedown request, including Google, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WordPress and Pinterest.
  • Appealing directly to the site itself/exploring the site's terms of service: If a DMCA takedown request is not a viable option in your situation, you may be able to appeal directly to the site for removal, especially if the content in question violates the site's terms of service, Ambron notes.
  • Pursuing legal action: In some cases, you may choose to seek legal counsel. "Laws on revenge porn vary by state, so do some research on the legal routes available to you in your state," Ambron adds.

3. Create new positive, relevant content about yourself

This will help by suppressing the revenge porn content further down into the search results.

"Even if you are able to get the content removed, it doesn't prevent the content from showing up later down the line on another site," Ambron explains. "One of the most effective ways to proactively handle the situation is to simply bury the compromising content by building a positive online presence. Populating your Google results with positive content is a surefire way to help control what people are seeing when they Google your name."

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How to protect yourself from revenge porn

These tips are pretty common sense, but helpful to keep in mind in order to avoid being the victim of revenge porn yourself.

1. Share with caution

Be careful about what you share with others, whether that's personal information or intimate photos.

"The culture around technology is rapidly changing, and it’s hard to understand the consequences of our electronic actions," Ambron says. "Even if you trust the person you’re sending private pictures to, you never know how the relationship might change and how the image may be used against you in the future."

2. Proactively maintain a positive online presence

Yes, keeping up with social media can seem like its own part-time job, but it's also a good way to help protect yourself from the damage of revenge porn. It serves the dual purpose of helping to suppress negative content about you as well as minimizing the impact of anything that could crop up down the line, Ambron notes.

3. Monitor your online presence

No one wants to admit to Googling themselves, but really, it's kind of a good idea. Think of it as a version of a breast self-exam. It's helpful to know what's out there about you so you're aware when something is added or looks off or potentially damaging. Ambron suggests using monitoring software that will scan your online presence and search results and alert you if any content looks like it could be harmful.

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