Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) stated that he would push for legislation guaranteeing legal recourse for individuals who the pornography industry has exploited after the release of a report on Friday. On Twitter, Hawley posted a New York Times article written by Nick Kristof that detailed how Pornhub helps to disseminate videos showing the rapes of children and adults.
“Tremendous reporting by @NickKristof on the exploitation that occurs on sites like Pornhub. It’s time for it to end. I will introduce legislation to create a federal right to sue for every person coerced or trafficked or exploited by sites like Pornhub,” the senator tweeted.
In his piece, Kristof reported that videos of children and women being raped are easy to find on Pornhub, which is the world’s most popular porn site. “Its site is infested with rape videos,” Kristof wrote. He indicated that several of the women he interviewed attempted suicide after videos surfaced on the website, showing them performing sex acts when they were children.
Pornhub declined to speak with The Times for the article. Still, they did release a statement explaining that it is “unequivocally committed to combating child sexual abuse material,” the report said. The company also took issue with the allegations made in the piece, claiming that it “is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue” to accuse Pornhub of allowing videos of children on its site.
The site operates a platform similar to YouTube, where users can upload content to be viewed by users. Individuals can also download content once it appears on the site and share it elsewhere.
Pornhub has repeatedly come under fire over allegations that it hosts content promoting sex trafficking and the sexual abuse of children. Many women have come forward and told the public that they discovered that their videos were being circulated on the platform.
Activist Laila Mickelwait who also serves as the director of abolition at Exodus Cry, started a Change.org petition to shut down Pornhub permanently. Exodus Cry is an international nonprofit organization working to eliminate sex trafficking.
The group created a grassroots movement called TraffickingHub that is working towards shutting down Pornhub. Lori Cohen, the executive director of the group, says on its website, “The consequences that any child who has been trafficked on the internet faces are both severe and long-lasting. For too long, Pornhub has promoted and profited off of the exploitation of our children with little regard to the damaging consequences.”
Pornhub insists that it does everything it can to stop the spread of illicit content. A spokesman for the company told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) that “Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and under-age material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate.”
He continued, “Our content moderation goes above and beyond the recently announced, internationally recognized Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.”
Despite the company’s denials, hundreds of questionable videos remain on the website.
Shutting down companies like Pornhub is an unrealistic endeavor. If the effort succeeded, there would be another entity to take its place. However, suppose lawmakers like Hawley can make it easier for victims of sex trafficking to take legal action against these companies. In that case, it might motivate them to do a better job of policing content shared on their sites.
Moreover, it is worth noting that while this type of legislation could certainly help victims, it does not address the root of the problem: Stopping the practice altogether or at least decreasing it as much as possible. Sen. Hawley’s solution might not address the entire issue, but it might be another step in the right direction.
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