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The House of Commons ethics committee began a study on Pornhub and other online platforms after a New York Times report prompted Visa and Mastercard to cut ties with MindGeek, the company that operates Pornhub. MindGeek operates primarily in Montreal and employs more than 1,000 people in Canada.

The Canadian Press

Online platforms such as Pornhub have failed to protect people’s privacy and reputation and the government needs to step in, says a new report from the House of Commons ethics committee.

The report tabled in Parliament on Thursday detailed how it can be difficult for people to have content that’s been uploaded without their knowledge or consent removed from Pornhub and other sites. It said that the federal government should take action to protect Canadians from being victimized online.

The ethics committee began its study after The New York Times reported that Pornhub makes money off child rapes and revenge pornography. That prompted Visa and Mastercard to cut ties with MindGeek, the company that operates Pornhub and other pornographic websites. MindGeek, which is registered in Luxembourg, operates primarily in Montreal and employs more than 1,000 people in Canada.

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The report said the ethics committee heard “harrowing accounts” from survivors, some of whom were minors, who had had images and videos of themselves uploaded to Pornhub without their consent.

One such survivor was Serena Fleites, 19, who had a video of herself at age 13 posted to Pornhub. Ms. Fleites told members of Parliament that she initially impersonated her mother to have the video removed. It was repeatedly uploaded, Ms. Fleites said, and she was forced to prove her identity each time to have it removed.

The report compiled the ethics committee’s findings and outlined recommendations for the government.

Among them is making sure that content posted without consent can be removed immediately, and that people are “given the benefit of the doubt” regarding non-consensual images or videos. Another recommendation is to make those who upload photos or videos provide proof of consent for anyone depicted in them, along with penalties that are “enough to act as an effective deterrent” for not doing so.

Privacy watchdog investigating Pornhub over potential breaches related to non-consensual content

International women’s rights advocates call on Canada to hold Pornhub to account

More than 70 parliamentarians call for criminal investigation into Pornhub parent company MindGeek

The report also includes recommendations to combat child pornography, including making internet service providers verify ages of people in uploaded photos or videos, regardless of where the content comes from. It also called on the government to “proactively enforce all Canadian laws” regarding material showing child sexual abuse, as well as the posting of non-consensual material.

In addition, the report said that sex workers should be consulted ahead of any new policies on this issue, and that any measures that would put sex workers at risk should be avoided.

“We are extremely concerned that the safety of Canadians may be compromised on online platforms,” said Camille Gagné-Raynauld, spokesperson for Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, in an e-mail.

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“We are looking forward to presenting a new framework that will ensure more accountability and transparency from online platforms,” she said.

Mr. Guilbeault has promised a bill focused on curbing harmful online content such as hate speech and revenge porn, but the legislation has yet to be introduced.

Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, said the committee report does not acknowledge that it is dealing with illegal activity, or that the government already has the legal tools necessary to lay charges.

“This is a failure on the part of the government. It’s a big failure. It’s consistently been a failure. We’ve been trying for years to have criminal charges laid with Pornhub, and we’ve always been told it’s not possible, that this is a free-speech issue,” she said.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair has made it clear to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki that Ottawa expects the force to pursue investigations “whenever the evidence warrants it,” Craig MacBride, the minister’s spokesperson, said.

In April, Commissioner Lucki said the RCMP was reviewing a request to investigate MindGeek.

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Chantalle Aubertin, spokesperson for Justice Minister David Lametti, said Canada has strong laws in place to ensure that those who exploit children “face punishment to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The investigation and prosecution of crimes that occur on the internet is complicated. Suspects, victims, witnesses and evidence are often located in different jurisdictions and can often be beyond the reach of Canada’s laws and law-enforcement powers,” she said.

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