Pornhub’s new woes for non-consensual posting of thousands of porn videos

The CEO and chief operating officer of Mindgeek, the company that runs the porn site Pornhub, resigned at the same time and without prior notice or special explanation. The company said the operation had been planned since the beginning of the year, but for the moment no replacements have been appointed and some suspect that the reason for the two resignations is an investigative article published a few days ago on the New Yorker, which tells how Pornhub has hosted sexually explicit videos for years published without the consent of the people involved, even with minors, making money.

A very similar thing had already happened in December 2020, when the authoritative journalist Nicholas Kristof had published an article on New York Times which denounced the proliferation on Pornhub of videos published without the authorization of the people involved, some of which showed rape, violence on minors and videos of revenge porn. Mindgeek had then denied any responsibility.

But then the two main credit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, had suspended payments to the company; then the company responded immediately by removing thousands of videos, banning the uploading of content to unverified accounts, and eliminating the downloads feature, which allowed videos to be downloaded and then reposted, making it impossible to keep track of them.

The article published on the New Yorker It was written by the journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar: it is very long and reconstructs the entire history of Mindgeek even if it does not report particularly new information compared to what has already emerged from the 2020 article.

It contains several interviews with women who say they found videos on Pornhub that they were featured in but never allowed to publish, and that they had to wait months before being able to get them removed: almost all of them are stories from before 2020. The New Yorker however, it is one of the best known and most authoritative newspapers in the United States and in the world and it is very plausible that such an article was considered a sufficient damage to image for a change of management.

– Read also: A New York Times article turned Pornhub upside down

Mindgeek claims not to post videos without first subjecting them to different types of checks, and to have started asking those who want to upload videos to the site to insert an identity document (while before 2020 it was very easy for any registered user, even with a fake name, upload content). Furthermore, the company points out that users can report videos that for some reason do not respect the rules of the platform (for example in which there are minors) and in that case the video is hidden until it is evaluated by a group of persons in charge.

MindGeek’s head office is in Montreal, Canada, but the company is registered in Luxembourg, where the taxation system is particularly favorable. Besides Pornhub, it owns other porn sites like RedTube, YouPorn and Brazzers – around 1600 people work there. The company says it has 150 million visitors a day and gets 4.5 billion views every month. About half of the income comes from the sale of advertising space on the sites, while the rest comes from agreements with production companies and subscriptions paid by users who want to access exclusive content.

Keeping traffic on the site high is essential for all this to continue to bring income and the company has no interest in limiting the publication of videos or deleting content already online, which in fact it had avoided doing until 2020.

Chief Executive Officer Feras Antoon and Chief Operating Officer David Tassillo, who have resigned, have been part of Mindgeek’s management for more than ten years and will remain shareholders of the company. Sheelah Kolhatkar wrote on the New Yorker that the names of Pornhub executives – and of those who work in the porn industry in general – are often kept hidden or replaced with pseudonyms: the names of the two who resigned remained unknown until activist Laila Mickelwait (cited both in ‘article of the New York Times than in that of New Yorker) hadn’t started investigating the company in 2018.

In February 2021, both Antoon and Tassillo (along with Pornhub Vice President Corey Urman, known as Corey Prince) testified during a hearing for a Canadian parliamentary commission’s investigation into Mindgeek; four women had been called together with them who claimed to have found videos in which they were present, posted on the platform without consent. Shortly after the hearing, Antoon’s home had burned down and he had blamed groups of activists committed against trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In the last year, after the image damage caused by the article from New York Times, and with the increasing success of platforms such as OnlyFans, where actors and actresses independently produce and publish their own porn videos, earning direct income, Antoon had begun to take action to sell Mindgeek. According to the company, traffic on Pornhub had dropped 40 percent after Kristof’s article. A group led by cannabis entrepreneur Chuck Rifici offered $ 525 million, but Mindgeek declined.

– Read also: Who earns on OnlyFans

The article is in Italian

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