The small organization that helped bring the porn industry to its knees

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By Mark Ellis –

image: Exodus Cry

Benjamin Nolot started Exodus Cry in 2008, inspired by the life of William Wilberforce, the British politician who led the fight to abolish the slave trade.

While Exodus Cry began by combatting more traditional forms of sex trafficking, they quickly expanded their focus to also include exploitation in porn after learning of the predatory dynamics at the core of this industry, sometimes involving trafficking and the use of underage and non-consenting participants. Nolot views this exploitation as a type of modern-day slavery.

“We’re a small team coming against a multibillion-dollar industry over exploitation,” Daniel Garcia told God Reports. Garcia is VP of Communications for Exodus Cry.

Their David-like approach to striking a Goliath in the porn industry – Pornhub – took on different tactics than some faith-based organizations. “We’re not saying ‘don’t watch porn, because it’s immoral,’” Garcia explains. “We’re saying we need to hold people accountable who are profiting off of sexual exploitation and sexual assault, because it’s overtly criminal.”

They used a three-pronged strategy to go after Pornhub. First, through videos, podcasts, editorials, and social media posts, they helped raise awareness and shift cultural perceptions about what was acceptable and to spark outrage. They advocated for laws that helped uproot commercial sexual exploitation. And they engaged with the victims to help provide a way of escape.

In the process, they provoked a vicious foe. “We became enemy number one of the porn industry,” Garcia says. “That’s what a porn performer told us.”

On the Exodus Cry website, they document a remarkable record of success in challenging the porn industry:

“In early 2020, Laila Mickelwait, who was Exodus Cry’s Director of Abolition at the time, published an op-ed in the Washington Examiner titled ‘Time to Shut Pornhub Down.’ It exposed the overt ‘child porn’ (child sexual abuse material), revenge porn, rape, and trafficking videos that were hosted on Pornhub, the ‘world’s biggest porn site.’ The op-ed sparked outrage and people began demanding a petition to shut down Pornhub.”

Then Laila Mickelwait launched a campaign, Traffickinghub, and an accompanying petition that exploded with the help of social media. “That petition went viral very quickly,” Garcia recalls. “Day after day, we fed that momentum on social platforms and the engagement grew quicker than we imagined. We were on a warpath, constantly posting about crimes on the site. It was just a mountain of evidence.”

An animated video Exodus Cry created for the Traffickinghub campaign had 34 million views and their petition ultimately received 2.2 million signatures from people in 192 countries.

Several months later, Nick Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times, picked up the story and published the scathing frontpage exposé “The Children of Pornhub.”

“With Pornhub, we have Jeffrey Epstein times 1,000,” Kristof wrote.

Garcia agrees with that characterization. “Pornhub was a cesspool of rape, trafficking, image-based sexual abuse, and revenge porn. Anytime somebody’s being shown in porn without their consent, that’s image-based sexual abuse. Sometimes it’s rape. Sometimes it’s trafficking, sometimes it’s child sexual abuse,” Garcia explains.

The impact of Kristof’s story was gigantic. Four days later, Pornhub removed the “Download” button on the site, only allowing videos to be uploaded by verified users, essentially changing their entire business model.

Six days after the story appeared, Mastercard and Visa halted payments on Pornhub, after announcing they confirmed the presence of illegal content on the platform. “That was massive,” Garcia notes. “At that point, you could only pay with cryptocurrency.”

Ten days later, Pornhub removed 10 million videos, 80% of its content – anything from an unverified user.

“The company blamed Exodus Cry and the Traffickinghub campaign as the reason for the move.”

Only two weeks after the Kristof article, MindGeek (the owner of Pornhub) was sued for $40 million by 50 women, alleging that the company knowingly profited from their sex trafficking nightmares.

After the lawsuit was filed, a major competitor to Pornhub, xHamster, began to implement significant changes to their website, removing the “download” button and deleting unverified content.

The legal nightmare for MindGeek has grown, with more than 190 victims suing the company in seven lawsuits for over $1 billion. “I’d be curious to know how they survive in the current context before they call it quits,” Garcia says. “They’ve been up against the ropes for the past year plus. I think the thing that could really put the nail in the coffin could be them losing some of these lawsuits.” Exodus Cry has played a role in referring some of the victims of exploitation to the law firms.

More recently, Pornhub’s CEO and COO stepped down after having led the company for the past decade, while rumors circulate about mass layoffs at MindGeek.

Without a doubt, Pornhub’s brand has been irreparably tarnished and this is altering the nature of porn distribution, according to Garcia.

Garcia compares the business of sexual exploitation to a tree. “The roots of that tree are men demanding illicit and criminal sexual experiences, the trunk of the tree is, in part, comprised of porn companies that tolerate or facilitate exploitation.” The bitter fruit of the tree is “all the lives who’ve been just devastated, the trafficking victims, the victims of sexual abuse and assault, and so it’s all connected.”

“We want to uproot the tree of exploitation. We want to see trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation abolished.”