Pornhub removes 10 million videos in response to pressure

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By Tom Strode —

Pornhub’s recent reaction after its site was reported to be swarming with rape videos, even of children, still falls short of what is needed, a Southern Baptist theologian and an ethicist said.

The world’s largest pornographic video-sharing platform announced Dec. 8 it will no longer permit videos to be uploaded from unverified users. Verified users still able to upload videos to Pornhub include adult movie studios and verified models. The decision resulted in a reduction of more than 10 million of Pornhub’s 13.5 million videos, according to reports Dec. 14.

The porn giant’s action took place in the aftermath of a watershed column in The New York Times and a decision by major credit card companies to investigate the use of their cards for Pornhub material.

Nicholas Kristoff of The Times reported in a lengthy column Dec. 4 that the Pornhub site “is infested with rape videos.” Pornhub “monetizes child rapes” and other content such as “revenge pornography” and “women being asphyxiated in plastic bags,” Kristoff wrote.

Following Kristoff’s column and their investigations, Mastercard, Visa and Discover all terminated the use of their cards on Pornhub. American Express and PayPal had previously shut down their services with Pornhub, according to news reports.

Pornhub’s ban on videos from unverified users “is little more than an attempt to placate public outrage,” said Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Scarborough College, the undergraduate school of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

“Pornhub’s executives can hardly plead ignorance that this material was on their platform,” McCoy told Baptist Press in emailed comments. “That makes them complicit in distributing child pornography, of which I’m sure they are aware.”

Jason Thacker, chair of research in technology ethics for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said Pornhub “is correct to remove non-consensual videos, especially those involving children and minors, but this dangerous content is still far too easy for someone to access and is leading to a massive delusion inside and outside the church.”

McCoy pointed to the federal government’s action against Backpage in 2018 as a precedent for dealing with Pornhub. Backpage was a classified advertising site known for its use in sex trafficking.

Federal authorities “shut down Backpage because it was a means of child exploitation,” McCoy said. “Kristof’s column demonstrably proves Pornhub and its executives are guilty of the same.

“What we need is a groundswell of concerned citizens to contact their representatives and urge them to hold Pornhub to the same legal standards and punitive measures they imposed upon Backpage in 2018.”

Some members of Congress already have proposed legislation to hold Pornhub and other sites accountable.

Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced the Stop Internet Exploitation Act Friday (Dec. 18). The proposal would require online porn platforms to confirm the identities of those who upload videos and written consent from each person who appears in them. It also would ban video downloads, something Pornhub prohibited only after Kristoff’s column.

On Dec. 9, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced the Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act. The bill’s provisions include the establishment of a cause of action that enables rape and sex trafficking victims to sue porn sites.

Pornhub – which is owned by MindGeek, a Montreal-based company – is one of the Internet’s most popular websites. It reported 42 billion visits to its site in 2019, with 6.8 million new videos posted each year and 115 million visitors a day.

Laila Mickelwait, founder of Traffickinghub, said on Twitter Dec. 14 that Pornhub’s officials need to offer apologies and restitution to their victims. She also called for a criminal investigation and prosecution of the executives. And she repeated the Traffickinghub campaign’s goal regarding Pornhub: “Shut it down.”

While Pornhub has announced it will permit uploads only from verified models, Mickelwait tweeted Dec. 15 its verification process has for years been “a form of mass consumer fraud – deceiving billions of visitors that the accounts were vetted when NO proof of age or consent was required.”

McCoy urged Christians not to be silent on the issue.

“Without minimizing the importance of current theological debates or the ongoing need to ensure doctrinal integrity, I can’t help but wonder how the world might change if we were busy fighting against evil instead of fighting against each other,” she said.

“When the Early Church proclaimed the Gospel, lived holy lives and advocated for the dignity of every human being, they revolutionized their pagan culture. Who says we can’t do the same?”

While obscenity and child pornography are illegal, the effect of pornography in general should not be minimized as “an individual private indulgence,” Thacker told BP in written remarks.

Porn’s far-reaching implications extend from sexual abuse and trafficking to “the lie that a fleeting sexual high is at the core of what it means to be human,” he said. “We are more than simply our bodies, and pornography will never be able to meet the human need for connection and intimacy. ”

He added: “This dehumanizing movement is wreaking havoc on our families, churches and communities. The church must tell a better story than the one being sold by the pornography industry that equates happiness and fulfillment with images and videos on a screen.” — Baptist Press

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