Pornhub parent company MindGeek has been hit with a massive $600 million class action lawsuit accusing it of hosting child-porn videos on the website.
The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of Québec at the end of December but first reported by the Journal de Montréal on Friday, seeks restitution from the smut site on behalf of “The Children of Pornhub.”
The class representative is a woman who alleges that a video of her rape as a 12-year-old was posted to Pornhub, and who accused the site of being deaf to her pleas to take it down.
MindGeek also was hit with an $80 million suit in California federal court last month by 40 women who claim it made millions off the alleged GirlsDoPorn sex-trafficking scheme.
The porn site last month removed more than 10 million videos from its page as part of its recent crackdown on illegal content.
The purge marked a massive shift in the porn site’s approach to content moderation amid pressure from advocates and payment processors Mastercard and Visa, which earlier cut ties with Pornhub over allegations that the platform is infested with videos of rape and child sex abuse.
A representative for Pornhub did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Auditors have severed their ties with the owner of Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website, as a scandal over illegal videos continues to grow.
The accountancy firm Grant Thornton said it would no longer work for MindGeek, a Canadian tech conglomerate, in the UK and Ireland amid claims that Pornhub hosts revenge porn and footage of rape and underage sex.
Mastercard and Visa have already cut ties with the company after the New York Times revealed this month that Pornhub was “infested” with abuse footage. The report claimed the site made money from videos showing “child rapes, revenge pornography, spy-cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags”.
Nicole, a British woman, said naked footage taken when she was 15 had been repeatedly uploaded to the site. She told Pornhub in a message last year: “You really need a better system. I tried to kill myself multiple times after finding myself reuploaded on your website.”
Pornhub denied the allegations. However, it has since removed more than 10 million of the 13.5 million videos it was hosting. It has also suspended videos that were not uploaded by its “content partners”, which it said was more than Facebook, TikTok or Instagram had done to prevent the uploading of illegal material.
Last week 40 women launched an $80m (£59.2m) lawsuit against MindGeek in California, claiming its sites profited from a “sex trafficking” operation called GirlsDoPorn.
Pornhub gets more than 42 billion visits a year — more than Amazon or Netflix — and posted sales of more than $460m in 2018.
The MindGeek empire also includes RedTube and YouPorn, on both of which adult video is shared, and more than 100 other sites. It is owned by Feras Antoon and David Tassillo and has 1,400 staff in Germany, Ireland, Hungary, Greece and London.
Campaigners have long criticised MindGeek’s policies. The Internet Watch Foundation found more than 100 cases of child abuse on Pornhub between 2017 and 2019. PayPal, the payment provider, cut ties last year.
Pornhub has since turned to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to process payments.
Grant Thornton, the UK’s sixth-largest accountancy firm, said it had “taken the decision to cease any future engagement” with MindGeek’s British and Irish subsidiaries. MindGeek did not reply to requests for comment.
In a blog post, Pornhub said it was being targeted by organisations dedicated to abolishing pornography and commercial sex work.
“In today’s world, all social media platforms share the responsibility to combat illegal material. Solutions must be driven by real facts and real experts. We hope we have demonstrated our dedication to leading by example,” it said.
Pornhub has been sued by 40 women who say it profited from a sex-trafficking operation by a content partner.
The women were all victims of Girls Do Porn, whose owners have been charged with offences by US officials.
The victims allege that Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek knew of the allegations against the company, but continued a partnership anyway.
It comes as Pornhub finds itself cut off from customer payments amid a scandal over illegal content.
Payment providers Mastercard and Visa have cut ties with the site after a New York Times investigation accused it of hosting child abuse and rape-related content.
The move has left the site – one of the world’s most popular – with cryptocurrency options like Bitcoin as the only way to pay for subscriptions.
The 40 women – of all whom are referred to by the pseudonym Jane Doe and a number – are demanding a jury trial and seeking more than $1m (£739,000) each.
Details of the suit are contained in a legal filing first reported by Vice.
Girls Do Porn was a part of MindGeek’s partner programmes until October 2019, when the US Department of Justice effectively shut the porn producer down by arresting and charging its senior staff.
Pornhub and other MindGeek sites removed the Girls Do Porn channel as soon as the charges were made – but the complaint alleges that “at this point, there was no longer a company left for MindGeek to partner with”.
Victims had repeatedly contacted the company to complain and tell them about the problems, it says. The first court case on behalf of victims was lodged in June 2016.
“As early as 2009, and definitely by fall 2016, MindGeek knew Girls Do Porn was trafficking its victims by using fraud, coercion, and intimidation,” the court complaint says.
“Despite this knowledge, MindGeek continued to partner with Girls Do Porn, never bothering to investigate or question its business partner regarding the mounting evidence of sex trafficking that MindGeek received. ”
The company “simply did not care… until it was no longer profitable”.
The complaint also says the videos have remained online even after the sex-trafficking charges were filed, with some visible as recently as 12 December.
MindGeek has been contacted for comment on the Jane Does’ legal filing.
The legal documents also lay out the historic claims of abuse against Girls Do Porn which were behind that company’s senior staff being arrested.
The site operated by advertising for modelling jobs, before telling the young women who applied that it was, in fact, for a pornographic adult video.
In order to convince the women to take part, they were told that the job would be anonymous and that their videos would not be posted on the internet – instead being sent on physical media for release in a distant market. In fact, the entire point of the shoot was to release the videos online to be visible in North America.
Owners Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, along with two employees, have been charged in a US federal court with sex-trafficking crimes.
US attorneys say “the circumstances were not at all what was promised”.
They say some women were pressured into signing documents without reading them or threatened with legal action; some were “not permitted to leave the shooting locations until the videos were made”; and some were “forced to perform certain sex acts they had declined to do, or they would not be paid or allowed to leave”.
And the complaint says some were sexually assaulted, and in at least one case raped.
Michael Pratt remains a fugitive on the FBI’s most-wanted list, for both sex-trafficking crimes and the production of child pornography. Mr Wolfe is awaiting trial.
Adult video site Pornhub has removed the majority of videos by suspending all unverified uploads, amid a row over illegal content.
Mastercard, one of the world’s biggest payment providers, pulled support for the site last week over the scandal.
A New York Times report had accused the site of being “infested” with child-abuse and rape-related videos.
Pornhub says its new measures are now more strict than any social media platform.
The move means that only videos uploaded by verified content partners and people featured in the videos, who are members of its model programme, remain online.
Most of the site’s content was uploaded by unverified community members. Millions of videos have been removed from view as a result of the new policy.
Pornhub also claims it is being targeted by organisations that want to abolish pornography, rather than being assessed on its merits.
The latest move builds on Pornhub’s previous efforts to tackle the controversy sparked by the New York Times article.
The site says it has “suspended” the videos it has taken offline, rather than describing them as deleted.
Pornhub says it plans to introduce a verification system for regular users in the New Year.
“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,” the site blogged.
“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.”
It alleges that groups “dedicated to abolishing pornography [and] banning material they claim is obscene,” were behind its problems.
Mastercard says it is ending the use of its cards on the pornography platform Pornhub after a review confirmed the presence of unlawful content.
A New York Times investigation accused the site of being “infested” with child-abuse and rape-related videos.
Pornhub, which has denied the claims, called Mastercard’s actions “exceptionally disappointing”.
Fellow payments giant Visa has suspended use of its cards on the site pending the outcome of its own review.
Mastercard launched its inquiry after Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof named it in his New York Times article, saying he “didn’t see why search engines, banks or credit-card companies” should “bolster” Pornhub.
“Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site,” a statement from Mastercard said. “We instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance.”
The company said it was continuing to investigate possible illegal material on other websites.
Payments giant Mastercard is reviewing its business with pornography platform Pornhub, following allegations published by the New York Times [see: The Children of Pornhub].
Pornhub parent company MindGeek has denied Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof’s claims he found multiple videos featuring child sex abuse, “revenge porn” and rape.
Mastercard rival Visa is now also investigating, according to Sky News.
MindGeek said the claims were “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue”.
Mastercard responded after Kristof named it, saying he “didn’t see why search engines, banks or credit-card companies” should “bolster” Pornhub.
Pornhub is free to use but users can pay £9.99 a month for higher-quality video streams and advert-free and exclusive content.
Its content is largely uploaded by its own community and publicly viewable.
But the company said every video uploaded was reviewed by human moderators.
In its most recent annual review, the platform said it had had 42 billion site visitors in 2019 and more than 6.83 million videos had been uploaded, with a combined viewing time of 169 years.
But it did not say how many moderators it employed.
Kristof claimed searches for “under-age” videos yielded many results and while not all featured children, some appeared to.
Pornhub said it had “zero tolerance” for child sexual abuse and used a combination of tools from Google, YouTube and Microsoft to help it detect and remove illegal material.
Earlier this year, BBC News told the story of Rose Kalemba, who was raped at the age of 14 and then had to struggle to have a video of the attack removed from Pornhub.
Pornhub responded it had been under different ownership at the time, in 2009, and now had “the industry’s most stringent safeguards and policies” in place to combat illegal content.
QotD: “The past six months in my job working to help people targeted by loan sharks have been busier because of the pandemic”
One of my team has a case involving a vulnerable young woman who has been forced to pay off debts with sexual favours. Danielle is terrified of the loan shark who lives on the same estate. He has made threats to her partner and children, which has made her get help. Danielle is also living with crippling anxiety and depression – we make a referral to her GP for counselling and mental health support. We have also referred her to Citizens Advice for debt advice. The loan shark is under investigation.
The way loan sharks operate is to entice people by pretending to be their best friend and doing them a favour – it can be really easy to fall into that trap. These criminals initially offer money to mothers, who in some cases are seeking to feed their children, without fully informing them of the extortionate interest rates and despicable repayment methods. They will use violence, intimidation and even force women into performing sexual services and prostitution to pay off their debts.
It is extremely upsetting to hear stories of women who have experienced unimaginable suffering as a result of borrowing money. The sad reality is that this is not just a shocking one-off story and it is happening more frequently since the pandemic hit.
The text accompanying this BBC report (which itself does not use the term ‘sex work’), refers to commercially sexually exploited children as ‘workers’.
You can complain to the BBC here, please feel free to copy or adapt the below text:
I am writing to complain about a report on missing/trafficked children in India using the term ‘sex work’ to describe the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Words and the meanings of words matter, a raped child is not a ‘worker’; ‘sex work’ is a partisan term, and using it in the context of child exploitation reduces a sexual exploitation issue to a mere labour issue.
The BBC has been celebrating pimps again with a link on the front page of their website yesterday inviting people to ‘pimp their video calls’.
I have written to the BBC to complain, you can make a complaint to the BBC here:
Please feel free to copy or adapt the wording below:
I am writing to complain about a link on the front page of the BBC’s website yesterday morning (13/05/20), inviting me to ‘pimp my video call’ (the link was to this webpage: https://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/empty_sets_collection/zfvy382). A pimp is someone who uses physical violence and/or psychological manipulation to control another human being in prostitution, if that person is moved around, the pimp is also a human trafficker. I know that ‘to pimp’ is slang for ‘to improve’ but that is not a good enough excuse; there is plenty of other slang that the BBC would never dream of putting in a headline, so why make an exception for sex traffickers? This use of ‘pimp’ was particularly egregious when at the same time, the main page of the BBC news website linked to the story ‘My pimp branded me with a ‘Love is Loyalty’ tattoo’. Words, and the meaning of words, matters; the BBC is setting the standards for the nation, particularly under the present circumstances, and it failed on this occasion.