The Owner of Pornhub Revealed—And Why It Matters

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Last winter, the world of online pornography was rocked when Pornhub and parent company MindGeek were revealed as complicit, willing hosts to a countless number of videos containing child sexual abuse material and victims of trafficking.

Since then, the pornography industry has continued to crumble as:

These accomplishments are significant and noteworthy, but Pornhub and MindGeek continue to evade criminal accountability for not only hosting child sexual abuse material and trafficking content, but actively profiting from the abuse and trauma of such victims.

Every day, Pornhub serves as a willing and profiting host to a wide-range of degrading material that includes (but is not limited to) racism, incest, 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.

While MindGeek and its executives rake in money that their own wives want them to leave behind, these leaders have the privilege of living mostly in the shadows. They enjoy the benefit of anonymity, privacy, and secrecy—all while survivors of sexual exploitation have to live knowing their worst moments are forever immortalized on the Internet.

The anonymity granted to the men who profit from these tragic experiences is finally breaking down.

In the recent podcast “The Hunt for the Porn King,” journalist Alexi Mostrous and his team discuss the way the titular and famously elusive “Porn King” has secretly been made a very rich man—all while hiding his identity from the world. The name of the man who has done nothing to correct the abusive, exploitative, and damaging practices of his company while survivors still struggle to have their stories heard and enact lasting change? Bernd Bergmair.

But why does it matter to know his name?

The identity of the primary owner of MindGeek matters because for so many survivors, there is no face or name associated with the crimes against them. Justice seems so far away, because the men responsible for these crimes hide behind their money and mega-corporations that no one ever seems to question.

I think that, regardless of whether he’ll answer questions or not, the fact that we know who he is, we know where he lives, we know what he looks like—and I think it’s a big deal for victims. I don’t speak for them, but I’ve spoken to so many of them. Just to finally know who is this man, call him out of the shadows—this is all part of accountability. This is all part of justice. And we can’t have justice for victims if we don’t know who the perpetrators are. So, this is, I think, a monumental step. I think this is huge. This is groundbreaking.”

~ Laila Mickelwait

Mostrous makes another great point:It seems to me that Bernd Bergmair represents something that’s dangerous in today’s internet economy. He represents the ability of a company to prioritize clicks over safety, profit over transparency.”

It’s this dangerous ability—the business model of the online pornography industry as a whole—that has enabled MindGeek and Pornhub to skate by these accusations with almost no real consequences. Without legislative action and real attention to the horrific crimes happening on these sites, the shadowy figures behind the Internet’s biggest exploiter and trafficker continue to profit.

Now, it looks like MindGeek will not only evade accountability, but may stand to make even more money. According to Business Insider, the company is in talks to be purchased by an investment group called Bruinen Group, led by Chuck Rifici. The kind of people he’s gathered for such a venture include criminal defense attorneys and former RCMP Director of Drugs and Organized Crime, a damning mix of people poised to take over the criminal empire that is MindGeek.

Every moment this abusive and dangerous company is not held criminally accountable is a day of justice lost for survivors. Every moment the executives of MindGeek and Pornhub walk free is another slap in the face to these brave survivors of sexual exploitation.

When asked what she would say to these men, one survivor said:

“Oh, man. I want… just, sorry, because I really, if I were able to say something to him, I think it would… maybe if I brought up myself and what he has done to me personally. How you are ruining girls’ lives and their identity and their love for themselves and who they are for your own disgusting pleasure of money. You know, I wish I was more eloquent with my words. The fact that you look at girls as objects to make money off of when I know that you broke a huge part of me.”

It’s past time that we listened to survivors and shut MindGeek and Pornhub down for good.

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 their first-ever “transparency report.” It is also clear that the pornography industry cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

MindGeek’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.

And no, we don’t think the Bruinen Group, which claims to be an “ethics-first investment transforming digital experiences” is particularly interested in putting ethics first when it comes to the millions of dollars these pornography sites make every year.

When will the rest of the world decide to prioritize people over profits?

Until MindGeek, Pornhub, and all other online pornography sites contributing to sexual exploitation on a mass scale are held accountable under the full extent of the law, the message is the opposite.

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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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