By Bill Pan
Google on Thursday introduced a new feature that allows people to request that their personal explicit photos be removed from its search results.
People already have the ability to remove non-consensual explicit images of themselves from Google Search, but the tech giant is updating this feature to allow them to remove any of their explicit images, including those shared with consent at the time.
Prior to the update, if someone posted an explicit personal photo on their own website and later deleted it, that image could still appear on Google Search results if someone else published that photo on another site without approval. Now, someone can request to remove that image as well. The process people must go through to have those images removed is also going to be simplified.
The change “doesn’t apply to content you are currently commercializing,” Google notes.
Also announced on Thursday is Google’s new “Results About You” dashboard, which can show people if their contact information is appearing in search results, and alert them when any new results with their information show up. The new tool also allows people to immediately ask Google to remove that information from search results.
This doesn’t mean Google will be taking down the information from the offending web pages, but with search results removed, it will be significantly harder for others to find them.
Google has also released its new SafeSearch setting, a feature that can filter graphically violent or pornographic images that appear in search results. This has now become a default setting, automatically flagging and blurring such content. Users can adjust or turn off this setting at any time, unless their account is supervised by a parent or school network administrator.
Google is also making it easier to access parental controls. When someone types in relevant key words, such as “google parental controls” or “google family link,” an information box will appear with information on how to access and manage controls.
“We know it’s important to stay in control of your online experience,” Google said in a press release. “These new tools and updates are some of the many ways we’re continuing to make Google the safest way to Search.”
Google Faces Censorship Lawsuit
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is seeking Democratic Party’s nomination for president, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Google and YouTube over alleged censorship.
In a 27-page complaint, Mr. Kennedy alleged that YouTube removed videos featuring his interviews and speeches in violation of his First Amendment right. He also argued that the Google-owned platform “will continue to do so throughout the presidential campaign, especially as the primary elections get closer.”
Among the removed videos was his speech at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and interviews with Canadian professor Jordan Peterson and podcast host Joe Rogan. YouTube flagged those videos as containing “misinformation” about COVID-19 vaccines.
“While we do allow content with educational, documentary, scientific or artistic context, such as news reports, the content we removed from this channel was raw footage and did not provide sufficient context,” YouTube wrote to Mr. Kennedy after removing the videos, according to court documents.
According to Mr. Kennedy, “only a portion” of the New Hampshire speech “dealt with his views about vaccines or COVID-19.” Instead, he discussed the Democratic National Committee’s plan to replace New Hampshire with South Carolina as the first state to vote in the 2024 presidential primary, as well as his environmental activism. But “YouTube removed everything,” he said.
Since he is running for president, Mr. Kennedy argued, YouTube is obligated to act as a public forum and allow his speech. In 2021, Instagram banned him over his content on vaccines, but ended up restoring his account this May when he declared his candidacy. This is because Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, has a policy of not fact-checking political candidates and allowing candidates an equal platform.
“YouTube has not treated Mr. Kennedy differently now that he is a political candidate,” the lawsuit reads, drawing a contrast with his treatment by Meta. “If anything, Mr. Kennedy’s candidacy, and the issues of public concern he speaks about, have made him an even bigger target for the public/private censorship regime that Google and YouTube are an integral part of.”
YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comments.