This past week has seen another lawsuit filed against Pornhub and its parent company Mindgeek. It’s another nail in the coffin of a company – and wider industry – that has been found to have hosted, and profited from, videos of child sexual exploitation, rape, trafficking, and otherwise non-consensually shared footage and images. This time, victims of non-consensual image sharing have filed the suit because, as USA Today reports, they ““were ignored, shamed, and sometimes mocked” when they asked MindGeek to remove videos of their abuse from its porn platform.”
That Pornhub and Mindgeek are finally being held to account is vital recognition of the rampant exploitation that has been allowed to flourish (and drive profit) in the porn industry, and of course for the survivors and victims themselves. But the fact that it has to happen at all is a sombre reminder that there is still a long way to go, on two fronts.
Firstly, there is little to no regulation when it comes to who and what can be uploaded to these sites, despite Pornhub’s claims to the contrary; and secondly, the lawsuit itself raises some troubling questions about what the wider public understand the porn industry to be.
Regarding the regulation point – this is an issue that has been brewing for many years. Tube sites such as Pornhub have acted largely without accountability or oversight, despite laws that exist to prevent illegal content being shared. The UK’s upcoming Online Safety Bill will seek to impose some form of regulation on these sites, but at CEASE we argue that the draft Bill does not recognise the specific harms and risks inherent within this industry specifically.
It is no good simply offering a broad protection against “general sites” that might cause harm; decades worth of research highlights that porn websites pose a particular and specific risk to both children and adults alike, and it is our position that this must be recognised with the implementation of a specific legislative framework requiring age and consent checks and verifications for both performers and uploaders.
Additionally, as our current #ProtectKidsFromPorn fundraiser and legal case against the Information Commissioner’s Office highlights, these sites are now processing and using the data of children, and the authorities who have the power and competency to investigate them are doing nothing. This simply cannot continue.
The second issue regarding the public perception of these sites is highlighted within the press release of the US lawsuit itself. As USA Today reports:
“”This is a case about rape, not pornography. It is a case about the rape and sexual exploitation of children. It is a case about the rape and sexual exploitation of men and women,” according to the lawsuit filed by Brown Rudnick LLP.”
The issues of rape and sexual exploitation cannot be meaningfully separated from pornography. The porn industry has functioned and thrived by profiting from rape and sexual exploitation, and has been complicit in the normalisation of, and increase in, male sexual violence against women. As our submission to the UK Home Office outlines, porn is both a facilitator, and example, of sexual violence. It is impossible to meaningfully separate porn from sexual exploitation and abuse.
It is imperative that Governments and public bodies begin to recognise the threat posed by the commercial online porn industry. Individuals have their lives ruined through the sharing of the footage of their rape, abuse, and exploitation, and myriad research demonstrates a vicious cycle in which those who watch this sexually violent content will be more predisposed to committing such acts themselves. The implementation of the Online Safety Bill in the UK must come with the specific recognition of the harms of porn. To do otherwise would be a grave failure, and a missed opportunity to finally get to grips with this exploitative industry.
More information about our Crowdfunder to #ProtectKidsFromPorn can be found here. Please do consider sharing and spreading the word and donating if you are able.