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Victim of Revenge Porn Sues to Make the Internet Forget Her Name

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 05, 2017 12:54 PM

A woman in Manhattan is suing Google, Bing, and Yahoo in an attempt to get her name permanently removed from their search results, according to the New York Post. The 30-year-old Harlem woman was a victim of revenge porn after an ex-boyfriend unloaded secretly recorded X-rated videos of the two to the internet, using the woman's unique four-word West African name. "If you Google her name, everything is right there," her attorney, Ryanne Konan, told the Post.

The suit is the first of its kind, according to experts. Will it be successful?

Please Don't Google Me

The woman, whose name is not being reported, discovered the revenge porn after breaking up with her boyfriend in 2015. She contacted websites that were hosting the illicitly filmed videos and successfully had them taken down. But, by that time, the videos had "gone viral" and now a simple internet search for her name results in more than four pages of porny results.

Those search results have damaged her reputation and kept her from getting a job, according to the lawsuit. "She can't even get an internship," her attorney says.

Though Google, Bing, and Yahoo all have ways to remove revenge porn from results (you can see Google's here), the woman's requests have allegedly been ignored so far.

The woman is asking for an injunction forcing the search engines to remove her full name from their results.

A Right to Her Name?

We haven't been able to get a copy of the woman's complaint, but her attorney seems to be relying on the idea that the woman has a right to control the use of her name. Acknowledging that there was no precedent for the suit, he told the post that "I don't need any precedent. It's her name, it belongs to her. She has a right to her name."

Of course, the idea of removing one's name from the internet isn't completely unheard of. In 2014, the European Court of Justice embraced the so-called "right to be forgotten," requiring search engines to remove results that violate individuals' privacy rights. A year later, France's data protection authority ruled that such a right must extend beyond the borders of the EU -- that the right to be forgotten must apply to search results internationally. (Google is currently appealing that order.)

As for the woman's lawsuit, not everyone is buying the "right to her name" angle. Aaron Minc, an online reputation defense lawyer, told the Post that the theory sounded "like B.S. to me."

And if you're wondering what happened to the boyfriend in this story, it seems like he got off scot free. Though he was reported to the police, New York is one of the few states that has not criminalized revenge porn.

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