The news that 350,000 people – and counting – have signed a petition calling on Pornhub – the world’s most popular porn site – to stop posting non-consensual videos and marketing them as “pornography” is not surprising to me.
Pornhub’s argument that “extremists” are lobbying to shut them down is ridiculous. I’m non-religious, liberal and sex positive and in no way “anti-porn”.
I started the #NotYourPorn campaign after a friend had her iCloud account hacked last year.
Videos of her and an ex had been stolen from her phone and then uploaded to Pornhub. Pornhub is owned by a multi-national, multi-billion dollar tech company called Mindgeek. Mindgeek have offices in the UK, although they’re registered in Luxembourg and their main office is based in Montreal, Canada.
Mindgeek’s monopoly over the commercialised porn industry is staggering. Pornhub is not their only site – they also own Youporn among others, and also own production companies that make pornography.
In one year there were 42bn visits to Pornhub and 6m videos uploaded. To put that into context that’s 115m visits per day, which Pornhub points out it’s the “equivalent of the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands”
We have tried to have my friend’s videos taken down: we told the company that she was underage, that she didn’t consent to being on their website and still it took several weeks to remove it. Unfortunately, by then the damage was already done. When one video had been removed, an identical video with her full name attached would pop back up again.
This cycle of reporting the video to Pornhub, delayed removal and subsequent re-uploading continued for months – until she ended up on Pornhub’s top five trending videos in the UK.
My friend fell into a state of depression at the knowledge that she had been reduced to a search term, her body packaged up as porn and sold for profit.
Since then I have worked with 50 women who were turned into “porn stars’” without their permission – some of whom were under 18 – when videos of them were posted on Pornhub without their consent.
Before you tell yourself that this would never happen to you (because you wouldn’t be so careless as to have a video of yourself like that in the first place) then I’d ask you to consider Catherine’s* case. Catherine got in contact with me when she found that her ex had been secretly recording them having sex, and without her knowledge uploading these videos to Pornhub for glory – and even a cash reward. When Catherine discovered his Pornhub page, she found videos of what appeared to be other unsuspecting victims too, all promoted under “secret recording” categories on the website.
Secret recording categories can still be found on Pornhub.
The issue has become more widely known in recent months, with other women coming forward. Recently, Rose Kalemba shared with the BBC how her rape at aged 14 was also uploaded to Pornhub. Rose described how finding her rape on the porn website being used as “content” forced her to re-live her nightmare.
Within 24 hours of the article going live, Rose’s full name appeared as a suggested search term on Pornhub.
Pornhub say that cases of child sexual abuse rarely appear on the platform, but an investigation by the #NotYourPorn campaign working with the Times last year found, with only a short search, a number of child sexual abuse images on the site. Disturbingly, these videos could be found in under five minutes. Tags like “stolen drunken teen video” or “public flash to young girl” and “young teen snapchat leak” promoted these child abuse images even further. Although we reported these videos, it took several days for any action to be taken.
Rose Kalemba experienced the same as she pleaded with the site to take down the videos of her rape telling Pornhub she was a minor in the video. The headings the videos of Rose appeared under included “teen abused while sleeping”, “drunk teen abuse sleeping” and “extreme teen abuse”.
Similar categories with the same sentiments are still promoted on Pornhub today
Here in the UK we are now waiting to hear what the new online harms bill will offer in terms of regulating the porn industry. There is no independent or government-linked body which monitors the content commercialised porn companies are promoting.
Pornhub hide themselves behind freedom of expression and argue that all sexual fantasies on their site are just that: legitimate fantasies acted out by consenting adults. They have defended the “young teen” and “drunk stolen snapchat” categories as legitimate fantasy protected by freedom of speech.
Let me be clear: this isn’t about censorship or stifling kinks – there are plenty of ethical porn companies who have strong systems in place to ensure everyone involved in production is a consenting adult. This is about a huge corporation profiting from non-consensual videos – and an industry that publishes abusive content with no regulatory body or government holding them to account.
The question remains: how much longer will we tolerate the commercialisation of non-consensual content before this government takes a stand?
And will it have to happen to you before you care?
*Some names change to protect victim anonymity
Kate Isaacs, founder of the #NotYourPorn campaign is calling on the UK government to ban the porn giant until it cleans up its non-consensual sexual abuse content
In a statement to the Guardian, Pornhub has insisted it has robust procedures to stop illegal content being posted. “Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting non-consensual content and under-age material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate.”