Millions of videos purged from Pornhub amid crackdown on user content
December 14, 2020
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A Pornhub logo at the company's booth during an industry conference.
Enlarge / A Pornhub logo at the company’s booth during the 2018 AVN Adult Expo on January 25, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Pornhub last night purged millions of user-uploaded videos from its platform amid allegations that it was hosting content featuring child sexual exploitation, nonconsensual violence, rape, and other unlawful material.

“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,” Pornhub said in a company blog post, as first reported by Vice. The purge appears to have hit almost 9 million of the 13.5 million videos on Pornhub as of Sunday, or nearly two-thirds of all the content hosted on the site.

“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 added. “In today’s world, all social media platforms share the responsibility to combat illegal material. Solutions must be driven by real facts and real experts. We hope we have demonstrated our dedication to leading by example.”

The swipe at other social media platforms is no accident. “It is clear that Pornhub is being targeted not because of our policies and how we compare to our peers, but because we are an adult content platform,” the company added. Citing Facebook’s transparency report, the company added, “Over 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. That is still 118 too many, which is why we are committed to taking every necessary action.”

So fast, too slow

The rapid changes at Pornhub follow a December 4 report from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who alleged that “many” of the 6.8 million videos uploaded to Pornhub each year depict rape, child sexual exploitation, or other unlawful activity. At the time of the report, Pornhub allowed any user to upload content—and to download content, adding a new layer of difficulty to moderation, as anything that was taken down could simply be re-uploaded again. Kristof interviewed multiple young women who had videos of them uploaded to the site without their knowledge or consent when they were children or teenagers, and who claimed the videos kept resurfacing even after they requested them taken down.

The report was published on a Friday, and before the end of that weekend, both Visa and MasterCard were conducting their own investigations of Pornhub and its parent company, Mindgeek. By Wednesday, Pornhub had halted uploads and downloads from users outside of its “content partners” and verified “model” program, which theoretically would drastically reduce the potential for unlawful, abusive, or exploitative videos to be uploaded to the site. Today’s purge of unverified content is an extension of that policy change, Pornhub explained.

The policy change, however, apparently came too late for Visa and MasterCard, as both payment processors banned Pornhub from accepting either platform as payment. The ripple effects go beyond just hurting the site or Mindgeek. Now, verified performers and sex workers who rely on Pornhub hosting to make a completely legal living currently cannot get paid for their work through Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or PayPal.

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