On February 1st, 2021, the Canadian House of Commons Ethics Committee launched their investigation into MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub, for hosting videos of child sexual abuse, rape, sex-trafficking, and non-consensually distributed content. The Ethics Committee opened the investigation by interviewing Serena Fleites, a survivor of image-based child sexual abuse distributed through Pornhub, and Michael Bowe, an American Lawyer who has been rigorously investigating MindGeek sites for almost a year.
Bowe informed the Committee that his investigation has found hundreds of cases of rape, abuse, and trafficking being hosted on MindGeek sites. To list just a few examples, he shared:
- A girl was raped at 15, and her video was posted on Pornhub and distributed to her community. Pornhub refused to remove the video for 3 weeks, then claimed it had been removed but left it up for another 2 months.
- A child under the age of 10 was trafficked and had Child Sexual Abuse Material made of her for over 10 years. This abuse material was posted on Pornhub and remained there until late last year.
- A 15 year old was secretly filmed then coerced into making other intimate videos. These videos were posted on Pornhub along with her personal information, which resulted in her suffering long-term abuse and stalking. When she contacted Pornhub, they refused to search for the videos or take any other measures to prevent their distribution.
Bowe emphasized that he believed MindGeek hosting these videos was not “a mistake,” but that they knowingly profited from illegal content. “How do we know that they know?” he asks. “The evidence is overwhelming.” Furthermore, MindGeek itself publicly stated that all of its content is reviewed by moderators; this amounts to an admission that they knowingly allowed child sexual abuse and other illegal content on its sites.
Serena Fleites added a personal face to the problem illustrated by Bowe by sharing her own story. At age 14, Fleites’ boyfriend manipulated and pressured her into sending him an intimate video, which he proceeded to share with his friends and which eventually ended up on Pornhub. Fleites states that when she contacted Pornhub to ask them to remove the video, they delayed the removal by several weeks by asking her to prove her identity again and again multiple times.
“It was clearly child porn,” Fleites says. “Even if I wasn’t the girl in the video, they could tell that was a child in the video and they were still dragging out this process. They didn’t want to take the video down because at this point it had millions of views and was bringing them in ad revenue and clicks to their site.”
The MP’s in attendance commended Fleites for courageously sharing her story, assuring her it was having a profound impact and informing legislative decisions. “We are going to take action,” says NDP MP Charlie Angus. “We are going to hold these guys to account. That is our job as legislators and as parents, because the system failed you.”
We are anxious for MindGeek Executives to be held to account during the hearing scheduled for February 5th, 2021, where they will testify before the Canadian Parliament Ethics Committee. This is one of the most momentous developments in the fight against pornography in a generation, and is not something to be missed!