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Did Big Tech just help kill New York’s revenge porn bill?

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, had pledged to sign the bill if it made it to his desk.

Did Big Tech just help kill New York’s revenge porn bill?
[Photo: Daniel Cañibano/Unsplash]

New York’s state legislature was working on passing a law that would have made so-called revenge porn a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. But the bill was just effectively killed, and now its supporters are blaming Google.

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The bill would not only have made the nonconsensual dissemination of sexually explicit images a misdemeanor, but it would have also helped victims sue web platforms for failing to remove the offending images. It’s that last part that appears to have lured Google and web-hosting sites into the fray. According to the New York Post, the Internet Association—the self-proclaimed “voice of the internet economy” and a lobbying group that works on behalf of Google, Amazon, and many other tech giants—lobbied hard against the bill. What the Post calls its “11th hour campaign” led the state Senate to take no action on the bill before leaving for summer recess, effectively killing the legislation until next year.

The bill had already passed the Assembly, and New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, had pledged to sign it, which is why advocates for its passing are understandably frustrated by the loss. “Big Tech, especially Google, created the revenge porn problem,” attorney Carrie Goldberg, who led the lobbying efforts for the bill, told the Post. “And now, just as we were about to enable victims to demand removal of their most intimate material from the internet via this law, Google renews its abuse.”

Neither Google nor the Internet Association would comment on the record, but both say they are not opposed to revenge porn legislation, and no one wants revenge porn on their websites. “Internet Association and our member companies share the goals of New York State policymakers who want to rid the internet of non-consensual sexual imagery,” John Olsen, Internet Association Director, Northeast Region, said in a statement. “We already work to prevent bad actors from using platforms to engage in this terrible activity. We will continue working with lawmakers who are committed to solving this problem.”

A rep for the Internet Association said that the group has not opposed other states’ efforts to enact revenge porn legislation, such as the bill that was passed in Rhode Island recently.

As for Google, the search giant already has an established process for requesting that explicit photos shared without content be removed from Google search results. However, it cannot remove images from the websites where they are hosted.

It’s not just internet entities that were opposed to New York’s bill. The New York Civil Liberties Union had concerns about how such a law would be enforced. The organization released a statement saying that the bill, as written, would fail court challenges and could end up “tossing teens in jail for exercising bad judgment and poor impulse control at the intersection of sex and technology.”

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About the author

Melissa Locker is a writer and world renowned fish telepathist.

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