April 22, 2021

Pornhub’s “Transparency Report” Is Another Admission of Guilt

“This is an industry that is not occupied by responsible corporate actors . . . this is an industry, which for various reasons, grew up in illegality. 

Nobody was better acquainted with what was on its site than MindGeek. It knew. 

This is a group that is indicative of the entire industry. Within the industry it is not a rogue. The industry is a rogue industry, and it will not self-police.” 

A lawyer representing a survivor of Pornhub made this statement at the April 8 Congressional briefing, perfectly summarizing how Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek are not only complicit in the victimization of countless individuals, but were fully aware of the illegal  content being uploaded and monetized before coming under public fire in late 2020.  

There is no form of degradation, humiliation, torture, or abuse that pornography has not attempted to sexualize, and MindGeek has known, condoned, and promoted these kinds of videos across Pornhub and their other pornography websites with abandon. 

Every day, Pornhub serves as a willing and profiting host to a wide-range of degrading material that includes (but is not limited to) racismincest, and violence against women. The pornography industry profits from many outright crimes: assault, battery, fraud, sex trafficking, labor trafficking, rape, obscenity, defamation, and child sexual abuse. In any other industry, universally, these crimes would be seen as unacceptable, and those responsible would be held accountable.  

However, MindGeek is allowed to host that content with impunity, and make millions of dollars from the trauma of men, women, and children. 

Pornhub’s crimes and MindGeek’s empire of exploitation have been flagged  by  survivors, advocates, allies, and experts who called for investigation and action long before the public scrutiny and subsequent hearings in Canada began. However, it wasn’t collective protest that moved this titan of commercialized exploitation to change. It was only the threat of reputational and financial harm that finally moved MindGeek to act—wiping 10 million videos from its site in a matter of hours, pushing out new flimsy moderation and reporting strategies, and hoping no one would look too closely at its latest  “transparency report. 

A transparency report would be a good start—for a brand-new company, not one that has peddled in the online sexual exploitation of countless victims for 14 years now. And a transparency report ensuring the “many proactive Trust and Safety efforts that we have made and are making going forward, not only to make Pornhub the safest platform on the web, but also to empower users, affiliates, and the public” like Pornhub claims would be great—if we could reasonably trust such a company to be transparent. 

We cannot trust Pornhub and MindGeek to be transparent, to self-regulate, and to continue to operate with impunity.  

There is ample evidence and testimony that MindGeek and Pornhub distributes and profits from child sexual abuse, rape, and non-consensual material. Even Pornhub proudly makes this statement in the report: “In 2020, 653,465 pieces of content were identified as potentially offending and consequently removed globally.” That’s over half a million videos in one year alone, removed for violating touted policies against “content depicting a minor, non-consensual content, hate speech, content depicting animal harm, prohibited bodily fluids, incest, or violent content.” And the report neglects to mention the kind of content contained in the 10 million videos purged directly after the blistering NYT piece, “The Children of Pornhub.”  

We know this reported number only scratches the surface of the true nature and scope of the problem, and we know that Pornhub cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Pornhub claims this: 

“We have a firm zero tolerance policy against underage content, as well as the exploitation of minors in any capacity. 

We’ll say it again: Pornhub is against the creation and dissemination of child sexual abuse imagery (CSAM), as well as the abuse and trafficking of children. CSAM is one of many examples of illegal content that is prohibited by our Terms of Service and Related Guidelines. 

Pornhub is proud to be one of the 1,400+ companies registered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) ESP Program.” 

However, Pornhub only began reporting to NCMEC in 2020, 13 years after the company was founded and many years after MindGeek executives became rich off of the abuse and trauma of children. NCMEC President and CEO John Clark testified to Canadian Parliament that  Pornhub made 0 reports to NCMEC in 2019.  

We could spend all day exposing Pornhub’s lies, inconsistencies, and rudimentary attempts to cover their tracks. They claim incest is another banned category: 

“Incest: Although content that depicts engaging in consensual sexual activity with a sibling’s partner or friend’s mom is permitted on Pornhub, we draw the line at incest. Engaging in any sexual activity involving incest (real or simulated) is forbidden. We prohibit content that depicts sexual activity between persons related within the collateral and lineal lines of descent, which also includes, as part of this prohibited content, content which features sexual activity involving adopted persons within a lineal or collateral descent context.” 

Yet, a quick fact check revealed 50% of Pornhub’s homepage was incest themed—the day after the transparency report was published with titles like “I Finally Get to F*** My Hot Stepbrother.” 

It is abundantly clear MindGeek and Pornhub have no vested interest or dedicated commitment to fostering a safe environment free from abuse, violence, racism, incest, misogyny like they claim to in this first transparency report. It is also clear that the pornography industry cannot be trusted to self-regulateMindGeek’s business model—which is a (massive) subset of the pornography industry’s business—is predicated on harm. No amount of “self-regulation” is going to be able to magically “fix” the racism, misogyny, and violence inherent to the production and consumption of pornography. 

Finally, a mere annual transparency report itself will never be enough to hold these companies accountable. Lianna McDonald, Executive Director at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection put it this way during the February Canadian hearings: 

“I do want to make just one point that really has not been discussed here at all, and that goes back to the issue of accountability and oversight. Again, we are still relying on systems under which it’s up to the companies to come forward and to report, so we don’t know the scale of the problem. We don’t know. There’s no oversight to know if they’re in fact reporting what they ought to be reporting, and it puts the users or survivors and victims in an unfair situation when they’re dependent on these companies to do the right thing. While we looked at what is available to us, we also have to raise the important question about accountability and what oversight is tied to what these companies are or are not doing.” 

We do not believe Pornhub and MindGeek will hold themselves accountable. In fact, that’s not even enough when the sexual abuse and trauma of men, women, and children continues to live online forever thanks to the actions of this deplorable corporation. This so-called transparency report is not only opaque—it’s an admission of guilt.
 


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National Center on Sexual Exploitation

Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian non-profit and the leading national organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography.

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