Google a 'lifeline' to the child porn industry, say critics

The tech giant Google is being called out for its complicity with pornographers - including those who trade in the sexual assault of children.

16-year-old Cara (not her real name) was a good student and popular with peers at her Perth high school. The naked photo she took of herself, standing in front of a bathroom mirror, was intended for her boyfriend’s eyes only. She sent it via Snapchat, confident that it would automatically disappear in a few seconds.

“I love you,” she wrote to him. “I trust you.”

He took a screenshot of the image and shared it with a few friends. Within days more than 200 people at school had a copy. One of them uploaded it to a porn site, identifying Cara and her school. Within three months, the photo had been downloaded 7,000 times.

Cara’s horrified but supportive family fled to a different city but the image followed her to her new school. She refused to attend. She started taking drugs.

At age 21, she took her own life.

Exactly who is to blame for these tragic, true events, shared by the former Australian police officer who worked on the case? Yes, there were unwise choices made by a group of naive teens: Cara, her boyfriend, the kids at school who callously shared the original image.

One in eight videos on the three major pornsites - XVideos, Pornhub and XHamster - feature violence, nonconsensual exploitation and forced sex.

Yet the real responsibility, says a growing chorus of critics, lies with an unholy alliance between online pornographers and the tech giants who profit from them.

One in eight videos on the three major porn sites - XVideos, Pornhub and XHamster - feature violence, nonconsensual exploitation and forced sex. Many of them, heartbreakingly, involve children or young women trying to fight back.

But it’s not just the porn mega-sites that are to blame. Abusive images of child rape and assault are found on mainstream sites too - including Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and others. 

What fuels this vast and vulgar network of sexual violence for profit online? The prime culprit, say internet analysts, is hiding in plain sight: the Google search engine. 

“The porn tube sites are obsessed with their Google rankings because Google is their lifeline.”

It’s Google, they point out, that overwhelmingly drives traffic to these sites from millions of users worldwide - and the tech giant is being increasingly called out for its complicity.

“The porn tube sites are obsessed with their Google rankings because Google is their lifeline,” explains Laila Mickelwait, the president of the Justice Defense Fund, which fights sexual exploitation online.

Recent reporting by New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof found a Google search using the keywords “rape unconscious girl” revealed dozens of videos depicting exactly that. In one, a woman is first strangled before her corpse is violated. 

A re-enactment? No one knows for sure.

No satisfactory answers

Kristof says Google provided no “satisfactory answers” to explain its complicity with sites that profiteer from sexual abuse of children and young women.

He points out that the company has managed to limit searches for other forms of violence - for example, for methods of suicide, for which the top responses direct the user to a suicide hotline.

“So, Google,” asks Kristof, “why  not demonstrate the same responsibility when it comes to searches for rape videos?”

It's not sex - it's abuse

Critics like Kristof insist the problem isn’t porn - it’s child abuse and sexual violence. “We can be sex positive and exploitation negative,” he says.

How? Three initial steps have been identified.

  1. Stop credit card companies from dealing with companies that promote illegal videos.
  2. Stop search engines - and Yahoo and Bing are also guilty - from driving people to rape videos
  3. Introduce legislation in criminal and civil law to prevent companies from cashing in on exploitation and nonconsensual porn images, and force accountability for those who do.



Family Zone, Australia's leading parental control solution, can block porn and violence on every device and every network your child uses. 

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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online pornography, sexual abuse of children, child exploitation

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