Pornhub Removes All Unverified Videos on Its Site After New York Times Exposé 

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Pool via AP

Pornhub, the world’s most popular pornography site, has responded to widespread criticism of its platform. The company has scrubbed its website of all videos uploaded by unverified users, which means it has removed most of the content that appeared on its site. 

The company released a statement announcing its plan to address the sharing of illicit material on its website: 

“As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program,” the statement explained. “This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders, a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to institute.”

Up until the company made this decision, any user could create an account and upload videos. It is believed that this was responsible for much of the illegal content being displayed on the website.

The announcement came after a widespread backlash against the company after journalist Nicholas Kristof penned an exposé detailing the stories of sex trafficking victims whose videos were still being showcased on Pornhub. The piece prompted credit card companies Mastercard and Visa to begin an investigation into illicit content being shared on the platform. 

Vice reported that the two companies decided to distances themselves from Pornhub. They wrote:

“Pornhub made the policy change on Tuesday to ban all unverified users from uploading or downloading content to the site, and said it would expand its moderation efforts. But by Thursday, Mastercard and Visa announced that they’d both stop processing payments with the site altogether. Visa’s announcement specifically stated it would drop all of the Mindgeek network, which includes a number of adult sites, including Redtube, Youporn, XTube, and Brazzers.”

The videos that have been removed or suspended display a notice informing the user that it has been flagged for verification. 

Vice also noted the dramatic decrease in the content on the site since it carried out its purge. They wrote:

“Before the content purge on Sunday evening, Pornhub hosted around 13.5 million videos according to the number displayed on the site’s search bar, a large number of them from unverified accounts. On Monday morning as of 9 a.m., that search bar is showing only 4.7 million videos, meaning Pornhub removed most of the videos on its site, including the most-viewed non-verified amateur video, which had more than 29 million views. That number briefly went back up to 7.2 million, so at the moment it’s unclear how many videos will be removed.”

Verified users are individuals who submit a selfie of themselves to Pornhub showing themselves holding up a piece of paper with their username and pornhub.com written on it. This makes them eligible to monetize their videos. The company stated that the verification process will be more stringent in the new year but did not give details on the new procedure.

In their announcement, Pornhub also claimed that it is being targeted because it is an “adult content platform,” and not because of its allowing for the sharing of videos featuring sex trafficking victims, many of whom were children when the footage was filmed. 

“It is clear that Pornhub is being targeted not because of our policies and how we compare to our peers, but because we are an adult content platform,” they asserted. The statement continued:

“The two groups that have spearheaded the campaign against our company are the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formerly known as Morality in Media) and Exodus Cry/TraffickingHub. These are organizations dedicated to abolishing pornography, banning material they claim is obscene, and shutting down commercial sex work. These are the same forces that have spent 50 years demonizing Playboy, the National Endowment for the Arts, sex education, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and even the American Library Association. Today, it happens to be Pornhub.” 

Vice noted that “while Pornhub’s decision to stop unverified users from sharing videos on its site could greatly reduce abuse on its platform, it’s not a guaranteed method to stop all abuse.” The company still hosts “Girls Do Porn” and has promoted the group even while it is being sued by 22 women for fraud, emotional distress, and misappropriation of their likeness after it was revealed that the organization used Pornhub to dox them. 

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced last week that he would seek legislation enabling sex trafficking victims to sue companies that continue to host their videos. Last Wednesday, the lawmaker, along with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), introduced the “Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act of 2020.”

Laila Mickelwait, founder of the Traffickinghub movement, met with Hawley to discuss the abuse being perpetrated through Pornhub. She also talked about the issue in a recent appearance on Fox News. “Trafficking and child sexual abuse victims do have a route to pursue justice for themselves currently,” she said. “However, it’s narrow and it’s challenging, Hawley’s bill is critical because it will broaden the route to justice for victims of trafficking and CSAM, as well as include victims of other forms of image-based abuse, and it will enforce important protective measures for victims.”

Human trafficking has become a severe problem facing the United States. The fact that most are unaware of the extent to which the criminal enterprise has pervaded American society only exacerbates the problem. 

The legislation that Hawley and Sasse are putting forward will certainly help; if victims have legal recourse against those who are allowing the dissemination of their rapes, it might prompt companies like Pornhub and others to take more action when it comes to protecting these individuals. 

But it is clear that the government will need to continue looking at other ways to stymie the efforts of those who victimize others through human trafficking. Otherwise, the problem will persist and more young women and men will be victimized. 

 

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