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New petition exposes Pornhub as sex trafficking hub

By Yair Oded

Jul 9, 2020

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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 Change.org 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 Change.org 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.