December 16, 2020

Pornhub Continues to Fall: Sued by 40 Survivors of Sex Trafficking

Over 40 survivors of the abuse and sex trafficking perpetrated by a former pornography production company, GirlsDoPorn, have sued Pornhub for its role in their exploitation. The lawsuit was filed on December 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California by the Holm Law Group PC and the O’Brien Law Firm, APLC. 

The new lawsuit against Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek, specifically, seeks punitive and compensatory damages. Their complaint states: 

“Plaintiffs have suffered damages including, but not limited to, severe emotional distress, significant trauma, attempted suicide, and social and familial ostracization. Further, MindGeek has received ill-gotten gains by selling, marketing and exploiting videos featuring the Plaintiffs’ likenesses.” 

In January 2020, 22 survivors of GirlsDoPorn’s crimes of sexual abuse, exploitation, and sex trafficking were awarded $12.7 million after a civil lawsuit was decided in their favor. The individuals behind GirlsDoPorn are still facing federal sex trafficking charges for their actions. 

What was evident in the midst of the civil lawsuit against GirlsDoPorn was the role, both originally and ongoing, that Pornhub played in the continued exploitation of the trafficked women. It took years for the material of the plaintiffs to be removed from Pornhub and, on top of that, Pornhub continued to host and promote GirlsDoPorn and its material on its platform throughout the civil lawsuit and all the way up until federal criminal charges were formally filed against GirlsDoPorn’s operators.  

The original civil lawsuit and the federal criminal charges were related to the way that GirlsDoPorn groomed victims using false pretenses, trapped victims in hotel rooms, manipulated and threatened victims into signing contracts and making videos, and lied to victims about how said videos would be distributed and their anonymity protected. 

This new case springboards from the previous lawsuit, arguing that MindGeek knowingly continued hosting GirlsDoPorn content which was obtained “using fraud, coercion, and intimidation” long before the legal case was brought before court. From 2011 until October 2019, MindGeek partnered with and hosted GirlsDoPorn content and only cut ties when the Department of Justice shut down the production company. Though the production company was not shut down until October 2019, previously many victims/survivors of GirlsDoPorn had sent MindGeek complaints about their exploitation. 

Long after GirlsDoPorn lost in civil court, was shut down, and faced federal criminal charges, Pornhub continued to host illegal video content from them which re-victimized survivors again and again. That’s right: up until December 2020 when the New York Times published an expose on Pornhub’s crimesMindGeek was still hosting videos from GirlsDoPorn—many of which featured the Plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The blatant disregard that MindGeek and Pornhub have shown for human dignity, prioritizing profit above all else, is sickening.

The blatant disregard that MindGeek and Pornhub have shown for human dignity, prioritizing profit above all else, is sickening. #Traffickinghub #ShutItDown Click To Tweet 

We at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation applauded the courage of the survivors who brought their trailblazing lawsuit against the pornography industry when they sought to hold GirlsDoPorn accountable for their crimes. As those survivors—and additional survivors with this new lawsuit—bring this new case against MindGeek and Pornhub for their negligence and profiteering, we are once again in awe of and humbled by survivors’ bravery and leadership in this movement. 

If you or anyone you know has been victimized on Pornhub or Twitter—or on any platform—the NCOSE Law Center is here to help. Please fill out our inquiry form here.

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