05:53 GMT01 April 2020
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    An online petition to close Pornhub has garnered over 200,000 signatures. The campaigners accuse the website of capitalising on sex trafficking and rape; they cite several cases in which women had noted videos of themselves having sex uploaded to the website against their will. Pornhub denies sharing illegal conent.

    The American Christian campaign group Exodus Cry has embarked on a mission to take down the porn industry embodied in Pornhub, the world’s largest adult film website.

    Exodus Cry is a non-profit based in Sacramento, California; its statet goal is to abolish commerical sexual abuse and sex trafficking worldwide.

    Laila Mickelwait, the group’s director of abolition, who styles herself as a ‘Jesus-loving radical-leaning feminist’, has started a petition on change.org that calls for Pornhub to be shut down and insists that its owners must be held accountable for hosting alleged rape videos and enabling the trafficking of women.

    Mickelwait cited several resonant cases involving Pornhub that have taken place in the US recently: that of a 15-year-old girl who was abducted in Florida and then appeared in 58 sex scenes uploaded to Pornhub, Snapchat, Periscope and other sites; 22 women who were conned into filming amateur-style porn they didn’t know would appear online (the executives of an affiliated adult film site were also accused of trafficking a minor), and an underage girl who was filmed having sex with a female relative.

    “Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of these women and minors and probably thousands more like them,” reads the petition, which racked up over 211,000 signatures as of the time this was written.

    “Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and 6 million videos uploaded per year. Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from.”

    Mickelwait particularly criticised Pornhub’s verification system, which requires only a photo and an email address for a user to get registered and be able to upload sexually explicit content to the website.

    Responding to the case of the 15-year-old who was raped in 58 videos and said she was forced to have an abortion by her trafficker, Pornhub argued that the girl was a “verified model with valid ID” but later deleted the comment.

    “They had verified that 15 year-old-girl who was raped and assaulted on 58 videos on their platform … that was part of kind of what’s been called an explosive revelation of what’s happening on this website,” she said.

    To Mickelwait, this means that many of the models in the “Teen” category – which is supposed to feature models of age because child pornography is illegal in the US – could actually be underage girls trafficked into the industry.

    “What all of this means is that at this very moment, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of videos of underage sex trafficking victims on Pornhub,” she said. “We already have evidence, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.”

    The petition will be sent to US President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and several members of Congress.

    Pornhub's statement on the matter

    Pornhub has commented on the issue in the following statement signed by Blake White, VP, Pornhub and Chris Jackson, Pornhub Communications Director.

    “Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and child sexual abuse material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate. While the wider tech community must continue to develop new methods to rid the internet of this horrific content, Pornhub is actively working to put in place state-of-the-art, comprehensive safeguards on its platform to combat this material.”

    “These actions include a robust system for flagging, reviewing and removing all illegal material, employing an extensive team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing all uploads to the site and using a variety of digital fingerprinting solutions.”

    “These include but are not limited to Microsoft’s PhotoDNA, a technology that aids in finding and removing known images of child exploitation, as well as Vobile, a state-of-the-art fingerprinting software that scans any new uploads for potential matches to unauthorised materials to protect against any banned video being re-uploaded to the platform. We are actively working on expanding our safety measures and adding new features and products to our platform to this end, as they become available. Furthermore, Pornhub will continue to work with law enforcement efforts and child protection non-profits in the goal of eliminating any and all illegal content across the internet.”

    Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the victim in the Florida case appeared in videos across several platforms, not only Pornhub. The headline has been amended to reflect that the official charges brought against the suspect in that case do not include rape.

    Tags:
    petition, sexual abuse, rape, porn, Pornhub
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