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Revenge Porn Part 2: Solutions For Victims

In Part 1 of this two-part article, I gave a detailed definition of Revenge Porn and wrote about the serious issues it can cause along with current events surrounding the act of publishing intimate photos or video content with the intent of causing harm. For this article, my aim is to provide solutions for individuals who find themselves the victim of Revenge Porn as well as give a list of actions to take once undesired photos or videos have been published online. The information below is a result of my experiences with clients who have dealt with, or are currently in the midst of reacting to some form of emotional stress due to personally-damaging media files available on the Internet.

Normally when I begin a professional relationship with a client seeking our services here at Reputable, one of the first tasks is profoundly analyzing the short, medium and long term ramifications of negative Internet content. By separating one’s emotions from the situation at hand, the person or company can obtain a firm grasp on just how damaging a negative review or unflattering article will be in the future. However, because viewers’ perceptions are immediately formed once a media file is shown, there is seldom much room for interpretation in regards to personally-charged video or photographic content. An explicit photo or video published online without one’s consent is almost always going to result in a crisis situation. There is little need for public relations analysis. The victim expressly desires to have the content removed or at the very least form a short-term strategy that offers the best chance at limiting its exposure.

Step 1: Content Ownership Assessment

The first step (after taking a screenshot or photo clearly displaying proof that the image is indeed published on x-website) is to establish who currently owns the file in question. Who has the power to remove it? This is the most important question once unwanted explicit content has been published online because it will lead the victim directly to his or her best chance of having it taken down as soon as possible. It may surprise you to learn that the offender (the person who made the content public in order to exact revenge) is frequently equally as powerless as his or her victim in getting the video or image axed once it has been handed over. It all depends on the website(s) that the files are published on.

The best-case scenario (from a victim’s standpoint) is for the content to be published on an extremely obscure blog site with very little traffic and Search Engine Optimization that is owned by the offender. The reason for this is simple – it has the highest possibility of resulting in the content’s removal, limiting its total views as well as giving the victim plenty of options for recourse. This is not the most common situation (that would be uploading the images or videos to social media sites), but it is the most likely circumstance to result in a satisfactory conclusion. If the offender currently resides in the same jurisdiction as the victim, even better.

The second and most common platform for posting Revenge Porn content is social media or blog sites that are owned by a third party (WordPress, Blogspot, etc). From my experience, contacting sites like Facebook, Twitter and others directly and requesting that they remove a pornographic image or video clip from their servers almost always has a positive outcome. This is because those websites already have policies in place to deal with borderline or outright pornographic media files and will usually oblige the victim by removing all traces and shares of the material without much hassle. They may also go a step further and ban the offender’s account privileges. Getting non-pornographic content removed may be much more difficult to achieve.

The worst-case scenario (as far as getting the content removed altogether) is having the files handed over to a third party website that is in the business of publishing such material. If this is the case, then chances are high that the website has already put in a substantial amount of Search Engine Optimization effort to ensure they are ranked highly on sites such as Google. What’s more, these types of websites are very experienced in dealing with litigation and routinely maintain a team of powerful lawyers on retainer. Your pleas and threats to these sites will likely be met with an offer to remove the image for a fee along with overwhelming insensitivity. There is also the issue of jurisdiction (especially with websites that are owned offshore) that may prevent the victim from pressing criminal charges and make it nearly impossible to pinpoint where to go in order to bring a civil case against the company.

Once content ownership has been established, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 2A: Contact Authorities

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This is absolutely a clear course of action if the person with the power to take the file(s) down or the offender happens to be located nearby. The pressure of potential criminal charges can be highly daunting to anyone who is not a seasoned veteran when it comes to Internet disputes. Gather your emotions, have a friend accompany you if you wish, and take the proof (the screenshot or photo I mentioned at the top of the third paragraph in this article), and head to your local police station to make a statement. Once this is done, it is usually up to a city, county or district attorney – depending on whether the offense will be considered a misdemeanor or felony – to decide whether to move forward with formal charges.

Step 2B: Contact Website Customer Support

Often times this will be the next course of action (even before contacting authorities) as it is only natural to go directly to the source and request that the offensive material be taken down as soon as possible. As I alluded to earlier, this can have a high success rate for social media sites; especially if the image or video is pornographic in nature. For content that doesn’t quite fit into that category, it could be much more difficult to get anything more than a generic response. This is why contacting authorities is generally the most logical action to take. If you’ve already filed a police report (something a social media site may require in order to be pressured to remove something), then that’s one more task that’s already been completed ahead of time. From the experience I’ve obtained dealing with the Revenge Porn issue from a consultant’s perspective, it is not necessary to request that the media be removed before pursuing criminal charges; although several removal requests may be necessary for civil cases.

Step 2C: Pay A Fee For Content Removal

In the worst-case scenario I outlined above, a gossip-based or other website that derives income from posting controversial images and videos is likely to solicit money in return for removing the files. Although this isn’t exactly preferable, it is often the quickest, least painful method for achieving a victim’s principal goal. The going rate per file is somewhere in the neighborhood of $300-$350 US Dollars; but this could vary drastically depending on each individual circumstance.

Step 3: Begin Reputation Management Efforts

If the content is ranked highly on a search engine, you should be able to push it down by creating or updating social media accounts under the same name that the undesirable content is published. For a Do-It-Yourself guide on how to open social media accounts with the aim of having the data rank highly in search engines, read this article on How To Use Facebook For Reputation Management.

Resources For Victims

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The two most highly ranked websites that offer assistance and resources to Revenge Porn victims are WithoutMyConsent.org and EndRevengePorn.org. The latter has a specific webpage with a list of Qualified Attorneys for victims who reside in the United States. There is another website called WomenAgainstRevengePorn that offers similar links to the sites listed above along with personal testimonials.

Unfortunately for victims, many Privacy Rights advocates and groups do not get directly involved in assisting in these types of offenses; focusing their efforts more acutely on general anonymity for Internet users. If you’re currently in a situation where you or someone you know is trying to get unwanted media files removed online, feel free to contact me by leaving a reply below. It’s not always possible to get something taken down immediately (although this is certainly a possibility), but at the very least we can work on minimizing the negative effect of Revenge Porn.

Preemptive Measures

Of course, the most reliable way of ensuring that you’re never the victim of such an offense is to never allow yourself to be a part of intimate photography or film. What may seem like a harmless act at the time can turn into a crisis situation with long-term negative consequences. Awareness of Revenge Porn is increasing, but it has not yet reached a point to where authorities in smaller jurisdictions have significant experience in dealing with the issue.

I’m available at any time if you wish to speak with me. There is a link in my profile to my Google+ account or you can send me an email at david.harold.mex@gmail.com if you would rather not leave a reply below.

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David Harold

Reputation Consultant at Reputable.com
David Harold began programming as a kid (in Basic) and never lost his passion for computers and technology. Since the 1990s, he has worked extensively with online directories, search engine optimization and most recently Reputation Management. He enjoys discussing social media strategy and assisting individuals as well as companies with their Reputation Management needs. Feel free to contact him anytime if you are in need of assistance with search engine results or have any questions.

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