Pornhub is trying to lure Europeans quarantined for the coronavirus into streaming its pornographic videos, some of which contain trafficked children and adults and rapes. The internet’s largest pornography website offered users in France, Italy, and Spain free one-month subscriptions to its “premium” content.
The clearinghouse for user-generated pornography framed its free access during the COVID-19 crisis as an act of charity. But Laila Mickelwait of the anti-trafficking group Exodus Cry called it “mass exploitation for the purpose of pleasure and profit.”
Dawn Hawkins, executive director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, charged Pornhub with “shamelessly leveraging” the pandemic for its bottom line. She said enabling more people to access its abusive and exploitative material will only cause “increased sexual violence and abuse against untold numbers of adults and children.”
Pornographers uploaded more than 6 million new videos to Pornhub last year, according to data from the website’s parent company, MindGeek. The site has no system in place to verify the age or consent of those featured in its content. “Kids are two clicks away from watching real child trafficking and rape,” Mickelwait warned.
Last month, Mickelwait penned a chilling column about Pornhub’s easy access: It took her less than 10 minutes to create a user account and upload blank test content that went live immediately. The site has had multiple reports of content portraying sexual violence against women and children. In one case, authorities found a missing 15-year-old South Florida girl after her mother learned she appeared in 58 Pornhub videos. Officials identified her trafficker on a convenience store surveillance camera and pressed felony charges.
Many women and underage girls have complained sex traffickers forced them to perform in content posted on the site. An investigation by the U.K. newspaper The Sunday Times in November uncovered dozens of illegal videos of child sexual exploitation within minutes. That same month, PayPal and Unilever cut ties with the website.
In February, Mickelwait started a petition to shut down Pornhub. It has attracted more than half a million signatures and bipartisan support from lawmakers in the United States and Canada.
“Pornhub must not escape scrutiny,” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., wrote in a letter last week to U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Sasse called on the Department of Justice to investigate Pornhub and MindGeek for involvement in a “disturbing pipeline of exploiting children and other victims and survivors of sex trafficking.”
Other lawmakers, including Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, also called for investigations into Pornhub. In Canada, a group of lawmakers sent an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week asking for further scrutiny of the site.