New York Times Reveals Pornhub Is Profiting From Child Sexual Exploitation

Pornhub is not just a porn website. It’s a social power. And it’s one that needs to be more strictly regulated.

By Jane Swift3 min read

In a recent New York Times article, columnist Nicholas Kristof describes the social power of Pornhub. It has 3.5 billion visits a month, more than Netflix or Amazon. It makes money from almost 3 billion ad impressions a day. One ranking put Pornhub as the 10th most visited website in the world. And one study ranked Pornhub as “the technology company with the third greatest-impact on society in the 21st century, after Facebook and Google but ahead of Microsoft, Apple and Amazon.”

Pornhub is undisputedly a powerful social player, and it’s largely getting away with hosting rape and child sexual exploitation videos. How? Well, Pornhub functions like YouTube in that it lets users post their own videos (6.8 million new videos are uploaded to the site every year). It also allows users to download videos from the site, which means even if Pornhub were to remove an illegal video, a user could just reupload it. 

Pornhub has third greatest-impact on society in the 21st century, after Facebook and Google.

Another issue that benefits Pornhub is that it can be difficult to discern if a teen in a video is 14 or 18, which means Pornhub can’t verify if it’s legal or illegal content. Also, due to simulated situations, it can be impossible to discern if torture or rape is real or acted.

But not always. Kristof says, “I came across many videos on Pornhub that were recordings of assaults on unconscious women and girls. The rapists would open the eyelids of the victims and touch their eyeballs to show that they were nonresponsive.”

Pornhub Makes Money off Trauma

Kristof interviewed many Pornhub survivors, whose lives have been ruined by videos being uploaded to Pornhub again and again. Some of these videos were made in a young teenage indiscretion. Others were the result of child sex trafficking. 

“It’s always going to be online,” said Nicole, a British woman who has had naked videos of herself reposted on Pornhub again and again. “That’s my big fear of having kids, them seeing this. It’s never going to end. They’re getting so much money from our trauma.”

"It’s never going to end. They’re getting so much money from our trauma.”

This is a recurring theme among the survivors Kristof interviewed. Their assault does end, but their videos constantly resurface on Pornhub, drawing out their suffering with no end in sight.

What Does Pornhub Say about All of This?

Pornhub executives declined to speak to the topic, but the company released a statement: “Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating child sexual abuse material, and has instituted a comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community.” It also said that any claim that the company allows child videos on the site “is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.”

Pornhub has instituted software that supposedly marks rape videos in a way that prevents them from being uploaded on the site again, but the technology can be worked around. Pornhub also put together a list of banned content, but again, there are ways to get around it.

And, according to Kristof, “if you know what to look for, it’s possible to find hundreds of apparent child sexual abuse videos on Pornhub in 30 minutes. Pornhub has recently offered playlists with names including ‘less than 18,’ ‘the best collection of young boys,’ and ‘under- - age’.” 

Pornhub said that any claim that the company allows child videos on the site “is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.”

Pornhub has content moderators, but do they have enough to thoroughly vet all the uploaded content? One moderator told Kristof there were only about 80 content moderators who work on Mindgeek websites (Pornhub’s parent company and a private pornography conglomerate with more than 100 websites, production companies, and brands). In contrast, Facebook has 15,000 content moderators. With only 80 moderators and 1.36 million new hours of video uploaded to Pornhub alone each year, how can all of the content possibly be vetted?

Kristof reports that “The moderators fast forward through videos, but it’s often difficult to assess whether a person is 14 or 18, or whether torture is real or fake. Most of the underage content involves teenagers, the moderator I spoke with said, but some comes from spy cams in toilets or changing rooms and shows children only 8 to 12.”

“The job in itself is soul-destroying,” the moderator said.

What Can Be Done?

Pornhub is effectively based in Montreal, Canada (although it’s nominally based in Luxembourg for tax reasons). 20 Canadian Parliament members have called on their government to crack down on the porn site. 

Kristof points out that “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada calls himself a feminist and has been proud of his government’s efforts to empower women worldwide. So a question for Trudeau and all Canadians: Why does Canada host a company that inflicts rape videos on the world?”

In America, one step that has led to more self-policing by Pornhub was the revising of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in 2018. The new version may not provide enough immunity to Pornhub, leading it to increase its number of moderators and to voluntarily report illegal material to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

PayPal has refused to do business with the company.

Additionally, PayPal has refused to do business with the company. Kristof says, “I don’t see why search engines, banks, or credit card companies should bolster a company that monetizes sexual assaults on children or unconscious women. If PayPal can suspend cooperation with Pornhub, so can American Express, Mastercard, and Visa.”

He also comments on the realistic difficulties in restricting Pornhub: “If Pornhub curated videos more rigorously, the most offensive material might just move to the dark web or to websites in less regulated countries. Yet at least they would then not be normalized on a mainstream site.”

Kristof ends by suggesting his ideas of what to do: “Aside from limiting immunity so that companies are incentivized to behave better, here are three steps that would help: 1.) Allow only verified users to post videos. 2.) Prohibit downloads. 3.) Increase moderation.”

His suggestions are a no-brainer —  if the company actually cared about preventing rape and child sexual exploitation videos. 

 You can read the full New York Times article here.