34 women are suing Pornhub and its parent company, accusing the site of profiting from trafficked videos of them

Pornhub
Pornhub, a popular pornography site, is one of the most visited websites in the US.

  • A civil case was filed against Pornhub’s parent company by 34 women on Thursday.
  • The case alleges the company knowingly profits from sex trafficking, including underage trafficking.
  • One of the plaintiffs was trafficked from age seven, and at one point was trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein.
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Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek is being sued by 34 women who accuse it of knowingly profiting from videos of them, which were uploaded without their consent.

The civil case was filed on Thursday in a California court, and each of the plaintiffs alleges they were the victims of sex trafficking.

Out of 34 plaintiffs, 14 say they were victims of underage sex trafficking. The plaintiffs come from various US states, as well as the UK and Thailand.

“This is a case about rape, not pornography,” the lawsuit states. It claims that MindGeek knowingly allowed non-consensual content to proliferate on its sites as part of its business model.

One of the plaintiffs says a nude video which her high-school boyfriend had coerced her into making when she was 13 was shared on Pornhub n 2014. She says it took Pornhub four weeks to remove the video after she flagged it to the website, but it continued to be downloaded and re-uploaded, and most recently a version of it was found on Pornhub in June 2020.

Another of the plaintiffs says she was trafficked from age seven up until she went to college, and was at one point trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein. At least seven videos of her were uploaded to Pornhub, according to the lawsuit.

Pornhub refuted the lawsuit’s claims in a statement to the BBC. “Pornhub has zero tolerance for illegal content and investigates any complaint or allegation made about content on our platforms,” a company spokesperson said. MindGeek was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Insider.

Read more: Former Pornhub moderators describe lax rules while being ordered to watch up to 1,200 videos per day: ‘Our job was to find weird excuses to keep videos on our sites’

This lawsuit comes six months after Pornhub announced sweeping changes to its moderation policies in reaction to a New York Times op-ed, which accused it of hosting and profiting off illegal content including child sexual abuse material.

The policy changes included limiting who is allowed to upload content to Pornhub and introducing “fingerprinting technology” to track down banned videos that have been re-uploaded.

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Billionaire investor Bill Ackman helped pressure Pornhub into taking down millions of unauthorized videos, report says

bill ackman
Bill Ackman.

  • Bill Ackman helped to pressure Pornhub into purging unauthorized videos.
  • Ackman texted then-Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga about the issue, Institutional Investor reported.
  • Mastercard and Visa swiftly cut ties with Pornhub, and the site deleted 80% of its videos.
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Billionaire investor Bill Ackman helped to pressure Pornhub into removing millions of unauthorized videos from its website, Institutional Investor reported this week.

The Pershing Square Capital Management boss was browsing Twitter last December when he came across “The Children of Pornhub,” a damning indictment of the porn site by The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. The article detailed how Pornhub allowed unverified users to upload videos without authorization from the people featured in them, enabling revenge porn and other exploitation.

Ackman noted in Kristof’s story that Mastercard and Visa processed payments for Pornhub. The hedge fund manager, who has waged activist-shareholder campaigns against several companies, realized he could leverage his influence to push those publicly listed payment groups to make changes.

Unaware that American Express already banned payments on porn sites, he texted Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga a link to the story and the following message: “Amex, VISA and MasterCard should immediately withhold payments or withdraw until this is fixed. PayPal has already done so.”

Banga swiftly replied, “We’re on it,” according to Institutional Investor.

Days later, Mastercard announced it had instructed its partners who connected Pornhub to its payment network to cease accepting the site’s charges. The payments group had found evidence of illegal activity and was continuing its investigation, it said.

Visa promptly cut ties with Pornhub too and launched an investigation. The porn site declared less than 24 hours later that it had removed 10 million videos, or 80% of all the videos on its site.

MindGeek didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Pornhub-owner MindGeek was already under pressure from human rights activists such as Laila Mickelwait, while litigator Michael Bowe was signaling to the credit-card companies that lawsuits might be on the way, Institutional Investor said.

However, Ackman’s text to Banga and his tweets about the issue may have tipped the balance. “It wasn’t until Bill really laid on the pressure and said, ‘Do the right thing,’ that they did,” Mickelwait told the publication.

The billionaire’s key takeaway from the episode was that investors can influence companies to act more responsibly, especially now that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards are gaining momentum. “CEOs get a zillion emails, but the one group that rises to the top of the line … is its biggest shareholders, influential shareholders,” he told Institutional Investor.

“A tweet can move the needle,” he added.

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Pornhub purges millions of unverified videos amid allegation of hosting child pornography

Pornhub
Pornhub, a popular pornography site, is one of the most visited websites in the US.

  • The popular pornography website Pornhub is deleting all unverified content on its platform, the company announced on Monday.
  • “As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program,” the company said
  • It’s the latest response from Pornhub following a New York Times column that accused the company of hosting child pornography and other illegal content, like videos filmed without the consent of those featured. 
  • Both Visa and Mastercard have pulled their charging services from Pornhub, and Pornhub has announced plans to verify all the content on its platform.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Pornhub is purging all unverified videos from its platform – the latest move in an ongoing response to accusations that the popular pornography website hosts child pornography.

“As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program,” the company said in a blog post on Monday morning. “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.”

The company did not confirm how many videos were removed from the site, but Motherboard, which first reported the news, notes that the number of videos visible on Pornhub’s search function went from 13.5 million to 4.7 million on Monday morning. 

Pornhub previously operated like YouTube, but with a focus on pornography, where anyone could upload a video to the service.

In a column written by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, Kristof described videos on Pornhub that he said were recordings of assaults on unconscious women and girls.

“The issue is not pornography but rape. Let’s agree that promoting assaults on children or on anyone without consent is unconscionable,” Kristof wrote on December 4.

The column called for Visa and Mastercard, two credit card companies that Pornhub works with, to stop working with the company. One week later, both companies officially ended their relationships with Pornhub.

Pornhub and its parent company Mindgeek have denied the allegations in the Times. The company told Business Insider it employs a “vast team of human moderators” who manually review “every single upload,” as well as automated detection technologies. It did not say how many people were part of its review team.

“Pornhub has actively worked to employ extensive measures to protect the platform from such content,” a Pornhub representative told Business Insider. “These measures include a vast team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing every single upload, a thorough system for flagging, reviewing and removing illegal material, robust parental controls, and a variety of automated detection technologies.” Those technologies, it said, include tools created by YouTube, Google, and Microsoft that are intended to combat child pornography and sexual abuse imagery.

Following the Times report, Pornhub announced stricter guidelines on who can publish videos and what videos are allowed to be published: Only accounts which Pornhub verifies will be allowed to publish content. Monday’s announcement takes that one step further, and purges Pornhub of all previously unverified content. 

It’s unclear how many videos are being deleted from the service, and representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment as of publishing.

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@businessinsider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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