It's about time they did something.
For years, most victims of revenge porn — people who have had their nude photos shared online without permission — basically couldn't do anything about it.
According to one study, over 50% of all adults engage in sexting, and 70% admit to having received a nude photo online or over the phone.
And yet, despite the fact that we all (or at least more than half of us) do it, there's still this weird, persistent, harmful notion that if your naked pictures get leaked or shared maliciously by an ex online, it's your fault for taking them in the first place.
It's completely backward, but sadly, the law seems to at least kind of agree.
As of September 2014, New Republic found, putting someone else's illicit photos online without their consent was illegal in just 16 states, though laws have been proposed in more states. Not only is it typically impossible to prosecute the perpetrator, they note, it's impossible to legally compel websites to take the images taken down most of the time.
But thankfully, Microsoft and Google — which operate two of the biggest search engines on the web — don't think it's your fault. And they're finally saying "Enough is enough."
To try and slow the spread and availability of revenge porn, Bing just unveiled a brand-new reporting system that allows victims to identify their images and request they be rendered unsearchable, according to Stephanie Mlot of PCMag:
"Microsoft is taking a stand against 'revenge porn' with a new website that puts victims in control of their own images. ...
[The company] this week launched a new website, where people can report inappropriate content and ask for its removal from Bing search results
, as well as OneDrive and Xbox Live."
And Google announced a program last month that would work to remove revenge porn images from Google search results, as reported by Chloe Albanesius, also of PCMag:
"Google today pledged to crack down on 'revenge porn,' or sexually explicit content posted without the permission of those involved.
... [I]t will now 'honor requests from people to remove nude or sexually explicit images shared without their consent from Google Search results,' Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, wrote in a blog post."
These changes alone won't solve the problem or bring justice to people who have been victimized.
Despite their size and influence, Google and Bing can't remove the images from the Internet. And even with these changes, it will be just as hard to prosecute offenders as it was before.
But letting victims take back control by making sure their images are much, much harder to find is a huge step forward.
Here's how to report a non-consensual image posting on Bing.
And here's how to do it on Google.
If the photos can't be found, they will be seen by far, far fewer people, giving victims back at least a little of what they thought they had in the first place: privacy.