A protester wears a cap with the Pornhub logo during a demonstration at the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society in Bangkok on November 3, 2020, after the website was blocked by the ministry. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP) (Photo by JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images)
JACK TAYLOR/AFP via Getty Images

Opinion

WALSH: Pornhub Profits Off Exploitation And Abuse Of Children And Women. It’s Time For The Government To Crack Down.

DailyWire.com

The New York Times committed a shocking act of Actual Journalism this week with the publication of a lengthy op-ed titled “The Children of Pornhub.” Columnist Nicholas Kristof calls attention to an issue that, earlier in the year, was the subject of a petition that amassed nearly half a million signatures: namely, that the behemoth smut site Pornhub traffics in child pornography, rape videos, and other forms of abuse, filmed and uploaded for public viewing. 

Kristof writes: 

[Pornhub] is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are.” […]

“Pornhub became my trafficker,” a woman named Cali told me. She says she was adopted in the United States from China and then trafficked by her adoptive family and forced to appear in pornographic videos beginning when she was 9. Some videos of her being abused ended up on Pornhub and regularly reappear there, she said.

“I’m still getting sold, even though I’m five years out of that life,” Cali said. Now 23, she is studying in a university and hoping to become a lawyer — but those old videos hang over her.

“I may never be able to get away from this,” she said. “I may be 40 with eight kids, and people are still masturbating to my photos.””

“You type ‘Young Asian’ and you can probably find me,” she added.

Kristof notes that a search for “Young Asian” returns tens of thousands of videos, along with related search suggestions, such as “young tiny teen” and “young girl.” There is a whole channel called “exploited teen Asia.”

I suppose we are meant to believe that the people looking for “young girls” and “young tiny teens,” or clicking on video compilations with titles like “Screaming Teen,” “Degraded Teen” and “Extreme Choking” — all examples mentioned in the article — are really only interested in seeing sober, willing adults engaged in consensual sexual relations. And we are further supposed to believe that the users uploading content with these titles are only providing legal and above-the-board content, but anyone who buys that claim must have already had their brain melted by porn overconsumption.

The fact is clear: Pornhub makes untold millions monetizing child porn and rape videos, and it is not an accident. There is a huge market for it, and Pornhub serves that market. 

But a funny thing happened after the Times piece was published. In the immediate aftermath, a spokesman for Pornhub sent a statement to the National Review indignantly denying that the they had any serious problem with rape and abuse videos on their platform. The statement said in part:

Any assertion that we allow CSAM [child sexual abuse material] is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue. We have zero tolerance for CSAM. Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating CSAM, and has instituted an industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community.

They also claimed to “manually review” every video posted to the site — a claim that itself must certainly be “flagrantly untrue,” as Pornhub also boasts proudly that users uploaded nearly three hours of porn per minute last year.

A day later, Pornhub changed its tune. Perhaps having something to do with the fact that MasterCard and Visa said they’d be “reviewing” their relationship with the filth peddlers, the company announced that it would be “taking major steps” to “protect our community.” These major steps include limiting uploads to verified users, prohibiting most downloads from the site, and expanding moderation of content.

It’s hard to see how they could take “major steps” to protect children and sex trafficking victims if they already had a “zero tolerance policy” which was being effectively enforced, as they previously indicated. Also, how can they expand their moderation, and why would they need to, if they were already manually reviewing something like 1.5 million hours of pornography a year?

This conflicting messaging only makes sense when you remember that this is a multi-billion dollar company which made its billions distributing videos with titles like “young tiny teen” and “extreme choking.” They have no ethical standards of any kind whatsoever and nothing they say can be remotely trusted. Their statements and commitments and declarations of how seriously they want to protect rape victims, etc., mean nothing. After all, if they really cared about protecting victims, they’d shut down operations entirely. A porn distributor claiming a commitment to combating sex trafficking is about as credible as all the tobacco companies saying they want to help rid the world of nicotine addiction. This is the script they have to read, but it cannot possibly be true. Their very existence testifies to the falsehood of their claims.

Besides, these measures are laughably insufficient even if they’re actually adopted. What’s to stop a verified user from uploading a video of an underage person, or someone who’s been sex trafficked, or someone who’s unconscious or not consenting? The “verified user” gambit is especially unconvincing because the bar for verification is low. As the website Fight the New Drug notes, all a person has to do to get verified is upload “a photo of them with their Pornhub username and Pornhub’s website written on a piece of paper, or their body.” There is no attempt to verify the age of the user, much less that of the “performers” in the video. 

And while the efforts to protect the people in the videos is virtually non-existent, the efforts to protect the people watching the videos are literally non-existent. Pornhub makes no attempt to prevent children from accessing the hardcore filth on its platform. To visit a site like Budweiser.com you at least have to enter your date of birth. If you want to go to the official Camel cigarette website, you need to register for an account. To sign up for a bitcoin exchange like Bitfinex, a user has to provide their address, phone number, email, and two forms of government issued identification. On this spectrum between the symbolic age verification of a beer company’s website to the serious verification process of a crypto exchange, Pornhub elects to do precisely nothing. Any random 8 year old can go to its URL and watch gang bang videos without having to jump through any hoops at all. This gives you an idea of how serious Pornhub is about protecting anyone, least of all children. 

The only real solution is to stop relying on the integrity and good hearts of executives at porn sites, trusting them to make good on their word to self-regulate. We must force the issue, just like we do with all of the regulations imposed on the alcohol and tobacco industry. I confess I would be in favor of simply burning the porn industry to the ground and salting the earth with its ashes. But in lieu of that, Pornhub and all sites like it should be legally required to verify the ages of all users — those uploading content and those viewing it. If you want to buy a porn magazine from a gas station, you have to show ID. There is no reason why you shouldn’t have to show one online. True, such a requirement may destroy Pornhub, as most of its users would be too ashamed to give their ID to such a site. That’s a risk I’m more than happy to take. 

The government could go even further, and should. As Terry Schilling outlines in his excellent First Things essay, we could have zoning laws requiring porn sites to move to a .XXX domain, where age verification would be needed to access. More aggressively, Congress could amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, getting rid of the blanket immunity enjoyed by Big Tech companies and holding them liable for content posted on their platforms. This would mean that a sex trafficking or revenge porn victim could sue Pornhub for hosting and monetizing the footage of their abuse. And why shouldn’t they be able to sue? If it doesn’t seem possible for a massive multi-billion dollar porn platform to really regulate its content and guard against child porn and rape porn, that might be a sign that massive multi-billion dollar porn platforms shouldn’t exist. 

The only downside to regulating porn companies is that it might make Pornhub executives a little less rich, and it may cause some mild inconveniences and discomforts for internet users who want to watch other people have sex. These are trade-offs a society can live with — indeed, trade-offs we should embrace enthusiastically — in exchange for offering at least some protection to the porn industries many victims, on both sides of the camera. 

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