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Pornhub Culls Millions of Videos Over Illegal Content

Michael Behr

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Pornhub

Actions from Mastercard and Visa have driven Pornhub to remove the majority of the videos hosted on its platform.

Major adult video host Pornhub has removed most of the videos from its platform amid a row over illegal content.

Currently, only content provided by specially verified users and people featured in videos that are members of the platform’s Model Program have been left online.

At the start of the month, Pornhub allowed users to search through over 13.5 million videos – it now offers under 3 million.

The move is in reaction to a recent opinion piece from the New York Times, which found that Pornhub was hosting videos depicting child abuse and non-consensual sex. The article led to a major backlash against Pornhub, causing the company behind the website, MindGeek, to remove the offending content.

“At Pornhub, nothing is more important than the safety of our community,” a statement from Pornhub read. “Our core values such as inclusivity, freedom of expression and privacy are only possible when our platform is trusted by our users. This is why we have always been committed to eliminating illegal content, including non-consensual material and child sexual abuse material.”

However, the removed videos have currently been suspended, with no indication that they have been permanently deleted. The 10 million-plus videos are currently pending verification and review, which is expected to begin in 2021.

Unverified users can no longer upload new content to Pornhub. In addition, users are now unable to download content from the platform, except for paid downloads within the website’s verified Model Program.

Pornhub has also said that it will create a new moderation group, dubbed the “Red Team,” to self-audit the platform for potentially illegal material.

The cull comes after financial services providers Mastercard, Visa and Discover blocked their customers from making payments to the website.

With 20 million registered users on Pornhub, each potentially paying around £9.99 per month for a subscription, the loss of payment processing from some of the biggest facilitators in the world represents a massive hit to the website’s revenues.

“Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site,” Mastercard said in a statement. “As a result, and in accordance with our policies, we instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance.”

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While internet pornography is not new, Pornhub has emerged as the industry’s legitimate face. In 2014, the website was advertised temporarily on a Times Square billboard in New York. For an adult video website, this was almost unthinkable even a few decades ago, and signalled that pornography was shifting into the mainstream.

User submitted content was a major contributor to Pornhub’s success – using a similar model to social media platforms like TikTok and Twitch, it meant performers could use the platform to build dedicated followings, and in turn revenue, which was shared with Pornhub.

However, this model has also led to the hosting of illegal content on the website. Pornhub’s position on the cultural periphery meant users could upload content that might be caught and banned elsewhere. For example, family-friendly content, including copies of Disney films Zootopia and Cars 2, was uploaded to Pornhub to skirt copyright violations, essentially hiding in plain sight.

Now, user-submitted content has landed Pornhub with allegations that it hosts illegal content of child abuse.

Pornhub has defended itself, claiming that its new regulations are stricter than other social media platforms.

“As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program. This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders, a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to institute,” Pornhub said.

“Over the last three years, Facebook self-reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material. During that same period, the independent, third-party Internet Watch Foundation reported 118 incidents on Pornhub. That is still 118 too many, which is why we are committed to taking every necessary action,” it added.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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