"Money talks” when it comes to PornHub

"Money talks” when it comes to PornHub

Last week, the New York Times published an article entitled “The Children of Porn Hub”, which detailed the stories of several underage vicitms of trafficking whose abuse was recorded and uploaded to PornHub.

The stories are hard to read and even harder to dismiss. There is the story of high school students who reported videos showing the rape of their 14-year old classmate - they just happened to find it on PornHub. There is another story of the mother of a missing 15-year old who found 58 videos of her daughter for anyone to download. Another girl adopted out of China and pimped by her adoptive parents from the age of 9 to make pornographic videos, still sees these videos routinely uploaded to PornHub. The author of the column that exposed all this is Nicholas Kristof and he had done his research. He reported: “a search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos”.

The good news is that Kristof’s article has provoked Mastercard and Visa to announce that they would reconsider their relationship with PornHub and “could cut ties” over the issue. American Express already has a global policy that prohibits the acceptance of its cards on digital adult content sites. PayPal stopped processing payments to PornHub last year.

Kristof’s revelations drew pious denials from “a PornHub spokesperson” delivered through CNBC:

“Any assertion that we allow CSAM (child sexual abuse material) is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue … Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating CSAM, and has instituted an industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community.”

Perhaps they hope the gullible will simply believe and move on. But when PornHub’s business model depends on challenging and stretching every conceivable moral boundary, why should we believe they are sticklers for the truth? Such emphatic protestations of righteousness don’t pass the smell test.

PornHub likes to parade its credentials as responsible corporate citizens. Here, for example, they declare support for organisations “actively fighting for equality”

But the $100,000 so generously donated was earned from downloads featuring the rape and torture of women fighting for their next breath. Literally. As Nicholas Kristof reported:

Pornhub profited this fall from a video of a naked woman being tortured by a gang of men in China. It is monetizing video compilations with titles like “Screaming Teen,” “Degraded Teen” and “Extreme Choking.” Look at a choking video and it may suggest also searching for “She Can’t Breathe.”

One thing PornHub is not spending money on is moderators to remove illegal content. Kristof’s information from one such moderator is that PornHub has only about 80 moderators worldwide. (By comparison, Facebook claims to have 15,000). With 1.36 million hours of video uploaded to PornHub each year, these moderators would need to review hundred of hours of content each week.  Kristof’s source confirmed it is “soul destroying work” and that it is often impossible to tell whether a person is 14 or 18, whether scenes of torture are real or fake.

PornHub’s underinvestment in moderators is consistent with its lacklustre record of removing child sexual exploitation material (CEM) from its platform. Worldwide, CEM is a problem that continues to grow. A 2017 report about online child exploitation in Australia described the problem as “a pandemic” - CEM increased by as much as 400% between 2013 and 2015. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children confirms the exponential increase in this problem with numbers of CEM videos or files tripling every two years:

  • 2015 – 6.5 million
  • 2017 – 20.6 million
  • 2019 – 69.2 million.

Before Kristof published his column, PornHub (which is apparently so committed to fighting social injustice), had taken down only 118 instances of child abuse imagery in almost three years. Isn’t it amazing what can be accomplished with a bit of strategic financial pressure? This week, PornHub has reportedly removed “million of videos – the majority of its content”. How long these videos will stay down is another question.