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New petition exposes Pornhub as sex trafficking hub

Pornhub, the world’s biggest porn site, has made headlines again as it faces accusations of promoting violence against women and sex trafficking on its platform. A petition has been launched with the aim of shutting down Pornhub and holding its executives accountable for “aiding trafficking.” And while dismantling a porn empire the size of Pornhub might seem like a far-fetched undertaking, the petition and affiliated campaign have already caused quite a stir, generating a worldwide debate over the company’s criminal dealings.

Is Pornhub promoting sex trafficking?

Pornhub has gotten itself a fairly mixed reputation over the years. Through its philanthropic arm—Pornhub Cares—and a handful of other initiatives, the porn giant has been involved in supporting artistic enterprises, providing scholarships, promoting sex education, and even partaking in the fight to preserve the oceans. But trailing behind its list of philanthropic endeavours is a swelling record of instances in which Pornhub has placed profit over human rights.

The petition, launched by the #Traffickinghub campaign, is accusing Pornhub’s parent company, Mindgeek, of failing to adequately regulate content uploaded to its websites and featuring non-consensual videos depicting rape and abuse of women, many of whom are trafficked underaged girls.

Based in Luxemburg with offices in Canada, Cyprus, the UK and the US, Mindgeek reigns supreme in the porn streaming landscape, owning not only Pornhub but a slew of other streaming websites (such as YouPorn) and porn production companies. Pornhub alone boasts a stupefying annual average of 42 billion visits and 6 million video uploads. While the company is adamant that it maintains “a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting non-consensual content and under-age material,” as it told The Guardian, the fact remains that such content continues to plague its platforms and that its removal, if occurring at all, is disturbingly slow.

Is Pornhub promoting child rape and abuse?

Back in 2019, the Internet Watch Foundation identified 118 different cases of child rape and abuse on Pornhub. A subsequent investigation by The Times in November of that year confirmed that Pornhub is “flooded with illegal content,” indicating that if found dozens of child abuse videos and pictures on the website, some featuring victims as young as three years old. Pornhub’s insistence that it bans content featuring minors is baffling, as The Times reported that some of the videos amassed over 350,000 views and were present on the site for over three years.

Shortly before The Times investigation was published, reports came out about a case in which a 15-year-old girl who had been missing for over a year was found, after her mother was alerted that 58 videos of her daughter’s rape and sexual abuse were uploaded to Pornhub by her trafficker.

What happened to Rose Kalemba?

Then in February 2020, a BBC story broke about a 14-year-old Rose Kalemba from Ohio who was raped and sexually abused at knifepoint for twelve hours and discovered later on that her assault had been videotaped and uploaded to Pornhub. Kalemba had reportedly pleaded with Pornhub to remove the videos of her assault from the website; the company only did so after several months, when Kalemba submitted a letter from a lawyer threatening to take legal action against them.

Pornhub’s facilitation of rape and trafficking has also made headlines in 2018 when it continued to feature videos by the private label GirlsDoPorn after 22 women sued them for deceiving and coercing them into performing sexual act on camera and uploading it to Pornhub.

This is a company that is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue and yet they do not have an effective system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts,” said Laila Mickelwait, founder of #Traffickinghub and the anti-trafficking organisation Exodus Cry, in an interview for The Guardian.

In her petition, Mickelwait emphasises how alarmingly easy it is to upload content to Pornhub, and calls for the shutdown of Pornhub and the prosecution of its CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo for their complicity in the trafficking of women and minors. The petition has already garnered over 1,339,000 signatures.

The accusations made against Pornhub are hardly surprising considering the company is part of an industry infamous for its abusive practices and utter disregard for human rights. Mickelwait’s petition, as well as the growing evidence brought to light by victims coming forward, should compel governments throughout the world to enact proper regulations over porn content as part of a larger effort to crack down on sex trafficking and sexual abuse, and hold facilitators such as Antoon and Tassillo accountable for their crimes.

It should also serve as yet another reason for us to take a hard look at the ravages caused by a culture and an economic system placing monetary gains above all else.

Finally, let’s make one thing clear: allowing platforms such as Pornhub to run content without any form of supervision isn’t promoting “legitimate fantasies protected by freedom of speech,” as the company claims; it is a cruel and oppressive preying on the vulnerability of victims and a detrimental impediment to the fight for women’s rights and well-being.

Up-and-coming adult actor shares how stressful the porn industry is. This is how OnlyFans helps

What is OnlyFans?

Over the past three years, a silent yet growing revolution has rattled the porn industry with the advent of OnlyFans—a website and app offering a monthly subscription service to self-made adult content in a way that mimics the culture and interface of social media. Praised for putting the power in the hands of content creators, as opposed to studios, and granting viewers a more intimate look into the lives of performers, OnlyFans seems to be on a trajectory to change the landscape of the porn industry forever.

The platform was launched in 2016 by British tech entrepreneur Timothy Stokely. After founding Customs4U, a fetish website where users could order customised adult content, Stokely went on to create OnlyFans. While the website is not a porn platform per se, as it was officially created in order to grant viewers a look into the behind-the-scenes of influencers’ lives, it has nonetheless been used primarily for sharing of and monetising on adult content.

The layout of OnlyFans resembles a typical social media feed, only the content uploaded on it typically reveals more than a bikini shot or six-pack abs. Performers upload content regularly (some on a daily or semi-daily basis) for a monthly subscription fee that normally ranges from $10 to $20. At the request of fans, some performers choose to create special content tailored specifically to the user’s request, which is sent directly to their inbox for an additional payment. Currently, the platform has over 12 million registered users and over 70,000 content creators who, combined, generate an average of over $150 million a year. Some of the most successful performers on the platform have reportedly raked in tens of thousands of dollars a month.

As many adult film actors (also called pornstars) are underpaid by studios and offered less-than-desirable working conditions, a considerable number of them have been migrating to OnlyFans, where they get to keep 80 per cent of their profits, have control over their schedule and content, and be their own boss.

It isn’t only established adult film actors who flock en masse to OnlyFans, however, but also influencers and bloggers who had never before entertained the notion of joining the porn industry. As a matter of fact, that was the primary goal of Stokely when he established the platform—enabling influencers to monetise directly on their content, without the intervention of a third partner or having to win the graces of a brand, all the while satiating the public’s thirst for a more ‘intimate’ gaze into the lives of social media personas.

Screen Shot spoke to Ty London XXX, a fairly recent recruit to OnlyFans who has been thriving on the platform. “With OnlyFans you are able to provide your own content, you can do it at your own pace, you can control it,” Ty said, “it also opened a door for me to collaborate with a production studio, which I’m excited to do.”

Ty referred to a certain freedom that OnlyFans encourages by giving a platform to people of all body types, gender expressions and backgrounds, thus shattering some of the conventions perpetuated by the porn industry. “Social media at the moment is becoming a lot more queer, and you see a lot of people [being] very comfortable with their bodies. And I thought, well, why not bring my queer self into it and be fun and keep pushing boundaries within porn.”

The rapid growth of OnlyFans has sent shivers down the spines of porn studios, who are declining in popularity and were already facing a massive loss in revenue since the emergence of websites like Xvideos that offer free streaming of porn. But even such streaming services appear to be threatened by OnlyFans’ unique appeal, and many of them have reached out to OnlyFans performers, asking them to make exclusive content for their websites.

But the platform still poses considerable challenges to performers. Just like on any other social media platforms, it’s hard to keep people engaged—especially when it comes to sexual interest and particularly when a fee is involved. “Just from doing it for the last few months, mental health is something that popped up for me because I’ve had a few dips where I’ve been like—there’s such a demand to post and you’ve got a lot of people to please, money to make, and you need to keep the same amount of fans on your page for the next month and the month after that. It becomes quite stressful at times. You’re like ‘I’ve run out of things to post and people will get bored and I’ll be losing fans’,” said Ty. “Also, there are lots of times when you’re not feeling sexual and force yourself to do it. It’s really difficult. It’s tricky,” he added.

Yet Ty believes there is a way to deal with the stress that comes with the job, partly due to features offered by the platform. “Take a day off, away from the phone. On OnlyFans you can write things, you can do polls. There’s a lot of changes that they’ve been introducing so there are ways of not having to post.”

It makes perfect sense that more and more people turn to OnlyFans as their source of sexual pleasure. Many view it as the next phase in the evolution of influencer culture. From a porn perspective, people aren’t interested in manicured actors performing trite and badly acted scenes. We long for closeness. Intimacy. We want to feel a connection with the objects of our fantasy and admiration. And with influencers morphing into friends and OnlyFans performers offering a peek into their bedrooms—this becomes more of a possibility. Through a screen, that is. And for a monthly fee.