It’s the disgusting little secret the world’s most powerful Internet search engines all know but keep quiet about. It’s the ultimate “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Every day, thousands of videos of women being sexually assaulted are used by multi-billion dollar websites such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Bing in order to drive revenue at the expense of the helpless victims involved.

These illegal pornographic videos are displayed as a result of a process that shields all the parties involved from liability, putting the burden on the victim of a sex crime to work diligently to force the removal of material that should never have been made available in the first place.

Criminals videotape themselves or others sexually assaulting women, usually women who are heavily intoxicated and in many cases unconscious. The videos are then posted by the criminals themselves or by someone else on streaming websites that allow users to post pornographic media anonymously. The websites, many of which are operated in foreign nations where laws to protect women and men from sexual abuse are lax, then ensure their material gets indexed by the world’s largest search engines so their videos can be viewed by millions of people.

For instance, a simple video search in Yahoo’s search engine for the terms “abuse of passed out girl” will reveal a startling video of a woman who appears to be getting sexually assaulted while she is completely incapacitated. The video, which is titled “Abuse of Passed Out Girl,” has more than 758,000 views and was posted well over a year ago.

Although it’s often impossible to stop individuals from anonymously posting illegal videos to pornography websites, it is possible for search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to prevent the material from being displayed, listed, and promoted on their sites.

Although some of the videos displaying women being sexually assaulted are likely produced by professional pornographers and don’t show any illegal activities, many video descriptions plainly state the person in the video is unconscious and is being raped. There’s rarely any indication the person involved in the video has consented to it being produced or distributed, and there’s almost never any contact information given for the person who uploaded it.

Search engines, which often focus their efforts on fighting child pornography, appear to do little to screen the websites they display for the presence of adult sex crimes. And they profit off of the traffic that comes to their site to find pornographic material, so they have little or no economic incentive to be diligent about seeking out and removing illegal videos and images.

Even if making these videos available to millions of people is assumed to be completely legal, search engines such as Google are clearly profiting off of the abuse of innocent people.

User-powered pornography websites mandate their anonymous posters agree to terms of service that forbid posting illegal material. Search engines likewise mandate the material listed on their websites comply with the law, and search engines say they can’t be held responsible when websites they index violate their terms. Thus, the pornography websites say they’re not responsible, the search engines claim they have no responsibility either, and the users who originally post the material are often unidentified, leaving victims virtually helpless.

In an effort to address complaints from users who have found sexually explicit images and videos of themselves online and have had trouble getting them removed, Google announced in June it will launch a program allowing people to submit requests to have pornography removed if it was posted without their permission.

This new effort by Google is a long-overdue step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Google and its largest competitors still display videos and images that have descriptions alleging the media contains sexual assault or abuse. Why should those search engines facilitate access to material openly promoted as being both horrific and illegal?

Although it’s often impossible to stop individuals from anonymously posting illegal videos to pornography websites, it is possible for search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing to prevent the material from being displayed, listed, and promoted on their sites.

These services have sophisticated algorithms to enhance both the user experience and their own bottom lines. Unfortunately, a shortsighted concern for the latter appears to be discouraging them from removing these videos from search engine results.

The world’s largest search engines have rightly resisted many attempts by government officials to control what is said and done on the Internet, but the great power and wealth the Internet has brought companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing come with significant responsibilities.

Search engines have an obligation to the victims in these videos and to the world to act with decency and compassion by banning any websites that consistently promote this kind of material.

In the long-term, it is in the economic best interests of these search engines to correct these horrific policies. Egregious breaches of individuals’ privacy will likely bring pressure from government agencies to remedy the problem, which could lead to an undesirable expansion of government power over the Internet.

More importantly, search engines have a moral duty to prevent the damage these illegal and despicable videos cause.

If search engines fail to help protect women who are victims of repugnant sexual crimes, then Americans should find new, more ethical options for browsing the Internet.

Justin Haskins is editor at The Heartland Institute and the founder of the Society of Compassionate Conservatives. You can follow him on Twitter @TheNewRevere.