Pornhub removes millions of videos after investigation finds child abuse content

By Alma Fabiani

Published Dec 15, 2020 at 01:14 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Pornhub has just removed millions of videos—more than 9 million—after an investigation revealed a large number of them featured underaged and sex-trafficked subjects. What first led to this purge and what part did the pornographic video-sharing platform play in this?

In July 2020, Pornhub, the world’s biggest porn site, made headlines while facing accusations of promoting violence against women and sex trafficking on its platform. Shortly after, a petition was launched with the aim of shutting down the website and holding its executives accountable for “aiding trafficking.”

Fast forward to 4 December, when The New York Times posted the in-depth article The Children of Pornhub which further highlighted Pornhub’s profit off videos of exploitation and assault. This not only caused the credit companies Visa and Mastercard to cut ties with the Pornhub and all related websites, but it also forced the platform to prohibit unverified users from posting new content.

However, only restricting the posting options for unverified users wasn’t enough, which is why Pornhub had to remove content previously uploaded by unverified users too. In a blog post announcing the changes, Pornhub wrote, “This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders, a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to institute. At Pornhub, the safety of our community is our top priority.”

By Monday 14 December, the purge had already brought the total number of videos on the site down from 13 million to just 4 million, a Vice report found. As crucial as it was for Pornhub to take action against the overwhelming amount of content including child rapes, revenge pornography, racist and misogynist content, and more on its platform, the purge may pose a significant threat to sex workers who use the platform’s sales as a source of income.

Until now, anyone could upload videos on Pornhub. From today, only verified users can do so, but to become ‘verified’, users are required to submit a photo of themselves holding a piece of paper with their username. This process takes time, and for sex workers who have already been struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, the news is “crushing,” says Pornhub.

The platform also banned downloads in order to slow down the sharing of non-consensual videos and made some key expansions to its moderation process by launching a trusted flagger programme with dozens of non-profit organisations.

Although the company acknowledged the severity of the accusations, it also highlighted the fact that the campaign to crackdown on Pornhub comes from groups that have long campaigned against sex content of all kinds. In its statement, Pornhub said it is “being targeted not because of our policies and how we compare to our peers, but because we are an adult content platform.”

According to The Guardian, the groups spearheading the effort to police Pornhub include the anti-pornography groups the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which was formerly known as Morality in Media, and Exodus Cry/TraffickingHub.

Pornhub was previously criticised for continuing to host videos by the amateur porn specialist GirlsDoPorn, a company that offered girls being featured in porn “for the first and only time”, even after a court in San Diego heard evidence that the videos were made using dishonesty and abuse. The official GirlsDoPorn page was not removed until October 2020, although the court began hearing evidence in August. Its videos were still being found on the platform months later.

To put things into perspective, “In the last three years, Facebook self-reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material. During that same period, the independent, third-party Internet Watch Foundation reported 118 incidents on Pornhub,” reports The Guardian. Pornhub came first, perhaps now it’s time for Facebook and YouTube to be held accountable?

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