Lately the news has been full of striking examples of how the Internet has been turned into a potent tool to abuse women; providing perpetrators with the anonymity to remotely stalk, harass, extort or post indecent images that are instantly available to the world and extremely difficult to take down. The UK Crown Prosecution Service noted in a recent report, detailing a record increase in the number of people prosecuted for violence against women and girls, that the use of the Internet to target women is a common motif.

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Yesterday Google announced it would stop its searches linking to “revenge porn” images if requested by a person whose image has been posted without consent.  We applaud Google for taking this important step.

We’ve been working to fight revenge porn, through representing clients like Chrissy Chambers and in campaigning, lobbying and giving speeches in the US and UK trying to make this practice a clear violation of the law both criminal and civil.   Google’ new policy clearly focuses on the consent of the person as the standard, which is better than the one used in many criminal statutes including the new one we worked to pass in Britain. They only punish the perpetrator if he intends to “cause distress” to the person depicted, and don’t offer any way to get the images taken down – leaving no practical recourse for someone whose images were hacked, or reposted for “kicks,” or because sites make money spreading them around.  Really, a better term than “revenge porn” for describing all of these cruel practices is “non-consensual pornography.”  By removing non-consensual pornographic images from its search results as Google has now agreed to do, it will help starve them of the oxygen they need to spread, and steer the internet away from permitting anonymous cowards to make people’s lives a living hell with impunity.

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Today the Guardian released a video telling the story of our client, YouTube sensation Chrissy Chambers.  She  became a victim of revenge pornography when her English ex-boyfriend published surreptitiously-filmed videos of a sexual encounter with her online.  She did not know that the videos had been taken and did not find out that they existed or had been posted online until tens of thousands of people had already seen them.  This was a fundamental violation of her human rights and caused Chrissy damage psychologically, in her relationships and in her work.

I represent Chrissy because I think we must fight back against the harm caused when a person is violated in this way.  While the new law criminalizing revenge pornography in England and Wales represents progress, it doesn’t cover the images of Chrissy, which were posted before the law was passed.  We have to use other legal avenues to help her.  We need to find a way to ensure that people like Chrissy not only have the protection of the criminal law, but also are able to access civil remedies and obtain compensation for the cruel damage caused when people deliberately use the power of the internet to embarrass and humiliate.  This is why we continue to fight.

Watch the video here.