There’s a global rally cry to hold Pornhub executives accountable for aiding trafficking and child sexual exploitation, evidenced by over 430,000 signatures (and rising) that have supported the Traffickinghub petition in the past month. This has resulted in a protest outside Mindgeek (Pornhub) on International Women’s Day. In addition, in an unprecedented step for politicians, nine Canadian MPs signed a letter calling on the Canadian Government to:

  1. Review the federal legislative and regulatory framework to ensure Canada’s laws fully prohibit the distribution of material featuring victims of child sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and sexual assault.
  2. Ensure that Mindgeek’s activities are in compliance with Canadian law including, Bill C-22, an Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, which came into force on December 8, 2011, and Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act, which came into force on March 10, 2015; and
  3. Take whatever other steps are necessary at the federal level to ensure that companies that sell, produce, make available or publish sexually explicit content be required to verify the age and consent of each individual represented in such material.

This is the first time EVER that Mindgeek has come under any sort of scrutiny. Mindgeek has four offices, centrally run from Montreal but registered in Luxembourg for tax purposes—they own Pornhub and many of the other big tube sites and have a monopoly on the industry.

A US Senator has also indicated that time is up, calling on the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to scrutinise Pornhub’s practices, reported here and here.

Under the banner of Youth Wellbeing Project, I have joined with over 75 other groups to support this global movement, stating on the petition site:

The blatant disregard in failing to protect the vulnerable is unconscionable—we must respond by asking questions underpinned by a critical analysis. If porn companies fail to adopt measures to verify the age and consent of those in their videos, what should be the legal recourse when content is found on their site(s) of children, teens and adults being raped or sexually violated? What might be the motives of porn companies who fail to verify the age of those accessing their sites? The industry produces abusive and exploitative content—how does this conflict with achieving genuine equality and validating the experiences of sexual abuse victims, particularly women? This petition is well overdue. It is quite astounding that an industry as big as porn continues to evade the most basic principles that underpin human freedoms as outlined by the World Association of Sexual Health Declaration of Sexual Rights (#5): The right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion.

Here’s a few articles about the campaign more generally:

And so governments SHOULD investigate and force legislation on the porn industry. Listen to this powerful 3-minute interview with Laila Mickelwait (responsible for starting the campaign) as she unpacks Mindgeek’s complicity in crimes.

Of couse, Mindgeek are not the only porn sites who are allowing these crimes but their mammoth monopoly makes them a logical target for scrutiny. An investigative journalism piece from Vice found that “Pornhub fails a simple test” for reporting this content, and the system  can be “easily and quickly circumvented”. They state that Pornhub not only puts the onus of finding and flagging videos almost entirely on potentially-traumatized victims—those victims can’t even rely on the system to work. Yet Mindgeek already have a system that could prevent these uploads from occuring in the first place.  AgeID was developed for the (now delayed) implementation of Age Verfication in the UK – they could take immediate measures to implement AgeID now for all their platforms to obtain age and consent verification prior to upload. But will they do that voluntarily? If their track record is anything to go by, highly unlikely.

Victims extend well beyond instances of revenge porn and trafficking to those harmed by viewing this content (particularly minors, and a list of public health harms so long that it’s impractical to expand upon in this blog). As such, any legislative measures taken to reign in Mindgeek will have a positive flow on effect as the tide turns against this multi-billion dollar industry who has for far too long, gotten away with horrific atrocities under the guise of “entertainment”.

The key thing to note? Even industry bloggers recognise how central Pornhub is to the functioning of the rest of the industry. A 2014 Slate article notes that:

…if MindGeek goes down, “it could take most of the porn industry with it.”

What a promising thought! As the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. If you haven’t yet added your name to the petition, please do!

When I started on this crazy long road, I started hash tagging many of my posts with #ShiftHappens, holding an unshakable belief that eventually, change would come – for the safety of our children, and for the sake of our humanity. And change is here. We have a long way to go, but for now, celebrate with me!

NOTE: The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not represent those of organisations separate to my own initiatives.

If you or loved ones are struggling with pornography’s impacts, you need to know that you are not alone. Click through for educational information, resources and links to online support services. And if you are looking for a presenter, professional development, curriculum to deliver in schools, or support for families, visit Youth Wellbeing Project and send us an email.
Liz Walker

About Liz Walker

International authority on porn harms, education and advocacy.