NYT: Pornhub Has Distributed and Monetized The Sexual Abuse of Children

On Friday, the New York Times published a lengthy, devastating report from Nicholas Kristoff about Pornhub, one of the internet’s most popular websites, period. While Pornhub has branded itself as a winky, fun purveyor of explicit content with a charitable wing, Kristoff reports that it has also distributed and monetized videos of rape, underaged children and more. In several interviews, trafficked survivors reveal their stories in unsparing detail, telling how their abuse has ruined and endangered their lives.

Pornhub rakes in cash from upwards of three billion ad impressions every day, boasting more visitors than Netflix, Yahoo or even the mighty Amazon. The company employs some moderators in an attempt to make sure videos uploaded to the site don’t violate any laws, but the report says there are nowhere near enough on staff to keep up with the 1.36 million hours of pornographic video uploaded every year. While some obvious flags like “underage” or “rape” are banned from being searched on Pornhub, the site’s search does allow for terms like “r*pe” or “girl with braces,” both of which turn up well over a thousand videos. “13yo” turns up 155,000 videos. Most of the people in these videos aren’t actually underage, but a lot of them are.

That’s how some of the awful stories Kristoff collected were allowed to happen on Pornhub’s watch. Women tell stories of photos and videos they believed to be sent in private finding their way to Pornhub again and again. Other women and some men tell stories of unconscious, forced or manipulated into being filmed when they were teenagers. One woman tried to commit suicide several times, and now lives in a car with her dogs. Another woman’s videos ended up on Pornhub after she was trafficked by her adoptive family. Footage of a 14-year-old girl’s sexual assault was removed from Pornhub not because the company found it, but because one of her classmates did and reported it. But many of the women interviewed noted the recurring nature of the nightmare: Pornhub usually removes videos when asked, but it just gets uploaded again by someone else. “It’s never going to end,” one woman said. “They’re getting so much money from our trauma.”

Kristoff is open about the complexities of what to do. The pornography itself is legal but the sexual abuse of women, including underage women, is not. Pornhub is based in Montreal, Canada, and while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has often touted his feminist bonafides, he hasn’t taken on the decidedly anti-feminist strain of Pornhub.  In the U.S., neither political party has seemed meaningfully interested in addressing the growing scourge of child porn. Only Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has called for a Justice Department investigation.

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Most of the women that Kristoff interviewed are asking for more guardrails and more regulation. Professional adult sites require proof of age and consent, but they simply can’t compete with the mostly free Pornhub. Kristoff also calls on credit card companies like Visa and American Express to stop doing business with Pornhub, something PayPal has already done. He also says that only verified users should be allowed to upload videos and downloads should be prohibited. None of this would solve the problem, but it’d be a step.

You can read the NYT’s full report here.

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