Relations Reporting on marriage, family, and sexuality

An overdue reckoning for Pornhub

Sexuality | The truth about the website breaks through to mainstream news headlines
by Mary Jackson
Posted 12/11/20, 03:20 pm

A major pornographic website is facing backlash after an investigative report revealed the exploitation of underage trafficking victims on its platforms.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in a Sunday report detailed multiple allegations of assault, including child sexual abuse, associated with Pornhub. Following publication, two major credit card companies—Visa and MasterCard—cut financial ties with the website on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the companies announced investigations into Pornhub and its parent company, Montreal-based MindGeek. MasterCard said it confirmed the company violated its policy against unlawful content. Visa suspended processing of payments until it completes its investigation.

U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday introduced bipartisan legislation to allow victims of rape and sexual assault and people whose intimate images were distributed without their consent to sue sites like Pornhub for profiting off of their exploitation.

“Serious criminal penalties are needed to crack down on these tech executives who think they are above the law,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Pornhub announced a series of new restrictions on Tuesday in response to the Times report. It said it would block downloads, only allow verified users to upload content, and expand its moderation process. Kristof called Pornhub’s new restrictions significant but said it has done nothing to earn his trust and a great deal depends on the execution.

Anti-trafficking advocates were less optimistic. “Pornhub cannot be trusted: It has profited for years from rape, child sexual abuse material, sex trafficking, and revenge pornography,” said Dawn Hawkins, senior vice president and executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “Any number of ‘improvements’ will not change that fact. Pornhub must be shut down.”

Laila Mickelwait of the anti-trafficking group Exodus Cry denounced Pornhub’s new restrictions as too little, too late. The Sacramento, Calif., nonprofit launched a petition campaign against Pornhub in February, detailing examples of abuse. Until this week, the pornography website denied the allegations and sought to undermine the campaign.

“They have knowingly destroyed lives for profit for too many years,” Mickelwait said. “Justice for victims means prosecution to the full extent of the law.”

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and reporter for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area. Follow her on Twitter @mbjackson77.

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