After being hit with the threat of a lawsuit, Google said on Thursday that it has removed tens of thousands of pictures and closed hundreds of user accounts related to the photo hacking incident that exposed nude photos of celebrities to the Internet masses.
Google’s decision came on the heels of a letter from celebrity attorney Martin Singer on Wednesday threatening Google with a lawsuit potentially seeking $100 million or more in damages related to the distribution of those images. The letter was addressed to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, its executive chairman Eric Schmidt, and Google lawyers, blasting them for engaging in “blatantly unethical behavior.”
Singer’s Los Angeles law firm, Lavely and Singer, represents over a “dozen female celebrities, actresses, models and athletes” whose personal photos and videos were hacked from their Apple iCloud accounts and “illegally” posted online.
The letter did not name the women Singer was representing. However, the victims are said to include reality star Kim Kardashian; actresses Hayden Panettiere, Amber Heard, Vanessa Hudgens and Kaley Cuoco; singer songwriter Avril Lavigne; U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo, U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney, and many others.
Nude photos, videos, and personal files belonging to actress Jennifer Lawrence and model Kate Upton were among the hacked celebrity files released online over the Labor Day weekend. However, since that first photo dump, the nude photos of many other well-known women have also been release on the online message board 4chan. The FBI is investigating the hack.
A Failure To Act ‘Quickly’
In his letter, posted on the document sharing Web site Scribd, Singer accused Google of failing to act “quickly and effectively,” saying it had been asked more than four weeks ago to remove the illegal, personal photos from sites it owns, including YouTube and Blogspot. The attorney said the search giant was “making millions and profiting from the victimization of women.”
“But because the victims are celebrities with valuable publicity rights, you do nothing -- nothing but collect millions of dollars in advertising revenue from your co-conspirator advertising partners as you seek to capitalize on this scandal rather than quash it,” according to Singer’s letter. “Like the NFL, which turned a blind eye while its players assaulted and victimized women and children, Google has turned a blind eye while its sites repeatedly exploit and victimize these women.”
Trying Not To Be Evil
Singer demanded that Google remove all of the stolen images from its online properties, suspend the users who posted the stolen photos, and suspend the Web sites that invited the submission of the stolen content or helped to distribute the pictures. In addition, Singer demanded removal of all Google search engine results that display the hacked images.
In a statement emailed to us, a spokesperson for Google, whose motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” said, “We've removed tens of thousands of pictures -- within hours of the requests being made -- and we have closed hundreds of accounts. The Internet is used for many good things. Stealing people’s private photos is not one of them.”