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MindGeek Canada Managing Director Feras Antoon appears on a screen during a sound check as he waits to appear virtually before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in Ottawa on Feb. 5, 2021.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadian executives behind massive adult-entertainment company MindGeek, which runs pornography website Pornhub, dismissed MPs’ concerns that the site was hosting videos of child exploitation, saying that if it were doing so, Canadians would have called the police.

MindGeek chief executive officer Feras Antoon, chief operating officer David Tassillo and Corey Urman, a vice-president, appeared before the House of Commons ethics committee on Friday.

The hearing comes after a New York Times opinion piece said that Pornhub makes money off child rapes and revenge pornography. That prompted Visa and Mastercard to cut ties with MindGeek and Canadian politicians to study its operations. MindGeek, which is registered in Luxembourg, operates primarily in Montreal and employs more than 1,000 people in Canada.

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Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek facing proposed class-action lawsuit

Mastercard, Visa ends use of its cards on Pornhub after allegations of illegal content

Mr. Antoon and Mr. Tassillo defended MindGeek’s websites, arguing that the company has measures in place to detect and remove illegal content. Mr. Antoon said only verified users and professional studios can upload content to MindGeek sites. The verification process requires users to prove their identity and age. MindGeek will be implementing new software this month to help prevent content that has been removed from being re-uploaded, he said.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs asked why MindGeek waited until after “global condemnation” and the loss of payment processors to make changes.

Mr. Tassillo said he disagreed with that suggestion. “This has been a constant evolution in our company since the 2008,” he said.

Bloc Québécois MP Marie-Hélène Gaudreau told the executives that she wanted to hear about their consciences, asking how they sleep at night when they think of parents and victims.

“We are very proud that we built a product that gets 170 million people a day,” Mr. Antoon responded, referring to Pornhub. “Don’t you believe that those four million Canadians coming every day to our site, if they see something so heinous and criminal … wouldn’t they be calling the police?”

At other times, Mr. Antoon appeared to express sympathy for people who have been victims of pornography. “I’m a father, I have a daughter, I have a wife, I have a mother, he said. “I’m heartbroken when I hear these stories.”

On Monday, members of the committee heard testimony from Serena Fleites, who told them a video of her at age 13 was uploaded to Pornhub. Ms. Fleites, now 19, initially impersonated her mother to have the video removed. But it was repeatedly uploaded, and Ms. Fleites said she was forced to prove her identity each time to have it removed from Pornhub.

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Mr. Antoon said the company did not yet have enough information to confirm her account. “I’m not saying she’s not saying the truth,” he said. “I’m just saying with a first name and last name, it is impossible to know if she’s contacted us.”

Committee members pressed the executives to disclose how many requests the company has received from women to have non-consensual content removed. “At the top of my head, I don’t have a number,” Mr. Tassillo said, adding that MindGeek will release a transparency report for 2020.

MPs also ordered the executives to produce a number of documents, including its budgets for legal services and for staff who moderate content. They’ve also requested information about corporate structures, the company’s financial statements and training manuals used by moderators.

The executives did shed some light on the company’s ownership and structure. Mr. Antoon said that he and Mr. Tassillo are minority shareholders in MindGeek and that the majority owner is Bernd Bergmair. The Globe and Mail previously reported that Mr. Bergmair is an Austrian citizen who lives in China, according to corporate records.

MindGeek said it relies on human moderators and artificial-intelligence tools to detect illegal material on its sites. But two former employees previously told The Globe that they were discouraged by managers from alerting law enforcement about potentially illegal content.

Mr. Antoon dismissed The Globe article when asked about it by the committee. “Media articles are not facts. It’s journalists writing whatever they want,” he said.

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NDP MP Charlie Angus criticized Mr. Antoon for his comments regarding Ms. Fleites and The Globe article.

“It strikes me, Mr. Antoon, that you show a staggering level of recklessness.”

The hearings come as Ottawa plans to introduce legislation to regulate social-media companies. Some countries, such as Germany, have legislation requiring companies to remove objectionable content within 24 hours or face stiff fines.

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