How the Problem of Child Porn and Non-Consensual Videos Doesn’t End with PornHub

Social Commentary

How the Problem of Child Porn and Non-Consensual Videos Doesn’t End with PornHub

Illustration: Arati Gujar

The long lockdown has seen an uptick in at-home hobbies like picking up a musical instrument, or learning to cook. It hardly comes as a surprise then, that with people being isolated at home and dating becoming even more impossible than it was in 2019, porn viewership  — particularly in India  — has also been on the rise. Unfortunately, this is one pastime that’s not as harmless as baking banana bread: the distribution of “revenge porn”, or nonconsensual images and videos, has skyrocketed due to how much of our daily life has moved online. And the enormous magnitude of the issue of nonconsensual porn has been recently exposed in a cutting New York Times investigation into streaming giant Pornhub.

Pornhub is one of the various adult platforms that comes under Canadian company Mindgeek, and certainly the most well-known. The platform receives the third-most searches globally of any website, after Google and Facebook, and has even built a reputation for being socially progressive. It ran an initiative to remove plastics from the ocean and has previously done a similar campaign on saving the bees; it had a tree-planting drive and has raised its voice against racism; and unlike many other circumspect streaming giants, they share valuable and detailed data for free in annual viewing reports.

But the dark side to Pornhub has long been apparent to the women who have reported their revenge porn and nonconsensual videos to the platform, many of which were filmed when they were underage. Despite this, videos have not been taken down, or have been downloaded so they are simply distributed again. The explosive report, heartbreakingly titled “The Children of Pornhub”, delves into the company’s failure to take action for promoting child pornography and other nonconsensual content. The site is “infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are,” the article points out. In response to the outcry, and the pulling of its payment processors Visa and Mastercard, Pornhub has announced new policies such as disabling video downloads and banning uploads from unverified users.

Pornhub has announced new policies such as disabling video downloads and banning uploads from unverified users.

Although these measures, if properly implemented, might go some way to addressing the issue of child porn, they are coming late in the game. As Pornhub themselves point out, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are rife with non-consensual content, including of children, and YouTube has long been a culprit for putting inappropriate content in front of kids even with parental controls in place. All of these platforms have so far relied on a hands-off policy where users can upload anything they want without censorship.

Will Pornhub’s new approach have a ripple effect that marks the end of careless media companies who take no responsibility for the impacts of their content? For both the porn industry and content hosting platforms at large, legislation around Pornhub could be a turning point in the culture of corporate immunity that has long flourished.

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