MindGeek has suspended millions of videos uploaded by non-verified users across its platforms, including Pornhub, after allegations Pornhub was showing videos of rape and child exploitation.
The company said viewing of the videos is suspended pending verification with its updated trust and safety policy, and in the new year it will adopt new policies for users to become verified as a requirement to upload content.
This latest move comes after a week of turmoil for MindGeek, which was founded in Montreal and maintains an office there, and its website Pornhub. MindGeek has operations around the world and is headquartered in Luxembourg.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote earlier this month that Pornhub makes money off child rapes, revenge pornography and scenes of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. The story included accounts from those whose videos were posted without their consent.
Last week, after the story was published, Mastercard said it would ban the use of its credit card on Pornhub because it found “unlawful content” on the pornography site, and Visa suspended the use of its card pending its own investigation.
On Friday, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith introduced a motion at the House of Commons ethics committee, which passed unanimously, calling on the executives of MindGeek and Pornhub to testify before committee. Registration documents in Luxembourg show that as of 2019, MindGeek was beneficially owned by Canadians Feras Antoon and David Tassillo. Mr. Erskine-Smith said the committee would like to hear from them, and any other appropriate officials.
Initially, Pornhub pushed back against the New York Times allegations and said in a statement last Monday that any assertion the website allows child sexual abuse material is “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.” On Tuesday, Pornhub posted reforms on its website, which also apply to MindGeek’s other sites.
Those new measures include allowing only content partners and people within its “model program” – a group of verified users who earn ad revenue and sell their content through Pornhub – to upload content. Pornhub will introduce a new verification process in the new year, which, upon completion will allow users to upload content.
The website said it removed the capability for non-verified users to download content, with the exception of paid downloads within its verified program, and is creating a new team of moderators dedicated to auditing the platform for potentially illegal material, which is in addition to an existing team of human moderators that review every upload.
On Sunday, Pornhub said that as part of its policy to ban unverified uploaders, it has “also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the model program.”
The company said in an e-mail that Pornhub will not discuss the new verification program, and that it will begin in the new year.
To become verified, a person has to create a Pornhub account, upload an image of themselves, such as a selfie, holding a sign with their username and “Pornhub.com” in handwriting or have those details written on their body, the website said.
Megan Walker, the executive director of London Abused Women’s Centre, said Pornhub’s announcement means the company is acknowledging it previously failed to verify videos.
“I hope there is a full criminal investigation with appropriate charges laid and full supports provided to victims,” Ms. Walker said.
Gail Dines, president of Culture Reframed, said MindGeek’s move to pull videos is an attempt to restore its reputation, and called it a “PR stunt.” Prof. Dines said the remaining videos still show women being tortured.
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