Big Porn is trying to use the COVID-19 crisis to get people hooked–and activists are trying to shut them down

As panic and pandemic sweep the globe, one industry in particular is positioning itself to take advantage of the lockdown: Big Porn. Over at The Federalist, Terry Schilling lays out how the industry is attempting to profit from the crisis:

The virus has provided an unprecedented opportunity for Big Porn to capitalize on our social isolation. Last week, for example, one of the web’s most popular porn sites, Pornhub, moved to make all its premium content free for users in Italy, which had just gone under lockdown. This week, it extended the offer to France and Spain.

Here in the United States, although porn sets may soon be shutting down out of infection concerns, online sex performers are reporting booming business. Perhaps most disturbingly, Vice News reported earlier this month on a surge of coronavirus-themed porn on sites such as Pornhub and xHamster, proving a well-known internet maxim that there is nothing — absolutely nothing — pornographers won’t sexualize if it might make them a profit.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, there are many, many good reasons to stay away from porn, especially during what will be a time of heightened temptation for many. Instead, this is a great time to check out a fantastic new campaign from Exodus Cry to shut down PornHub. In just a few weeks, the campaign has gotten a lot of traction:

As many of you already know, five weeks ago Exodus Cry launched a targeted campaign to shut down Pornhub, the world’s largest porn site, due to its complicity in sex trafficking, child abuse, and rape.

We launched traffickinghub.com and, thanks to so many of you, our petition to shut it down has reached well over half a million signatures!

Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the incredible groundswell of support for this campaign has continued to build momentum.

Campaign highlights include:

  • The campaign’s Change.org online petition went viral and now has 553,000+ signatures
  • Following a protest we organized in front of Pornhub headquarters in Montreal, several members of Canada’s parliament called on the Canadian government to investigate Pornhub
  • U.S. Senator Ben Sasse called on the Department of Justice to investigate Pornhub
  • 125 news outlets in 25 countries have reported on the campaign, including: BBC, The Guardian, The Washington Times, Washington Examiner, Fox News, New York Post, NY Daily News, The Independent, Drudge Report, and Cosmopolitan
  • 75 human rights organizations have co-sponsored the petition with us

On Twitter, Exodus Cry’s Director of Abolition (which, you have to admit, is a pretty epic title) Laila Mickelwait has been posting almost hourly evidence of PornHub’s complicity in sex trafficking and rape, and it is truly awful stuff. This has been going on for years, and people have simply been ignoring the fact that PornHub is responsible for unimaginable suffering and sexual abuse.

So who runs PornHub? It is actually a company based out of Montreal, Canada, and anti-porn activists have been pinpointing it as a key source of the porn problem for years. From Exodus Cry:

Pornhub, although the largest and arguably most recognizable porn website, is just a subsidiary of a much larger company called MindGeek (formally Manwin). MindGeek is a Montreal-based IT company established over a decade ago by student programmers from Concordia University—Stephane Manos and Ouissam Youssef.

MindGeek describes themselves as “leaders in design, development, marketing, SEO, and management of highly trafficked websites.” A visit to their website would appear as if you’re visiting a successful technology-based company with a global footprint. As you dig deeper however, this seems more facade than reality.

At its core, MindGeek is a porn company. Let me rephrase, MindGeek is THE porn company. They are the controlling entity behind the biggest and highest trafficked porn sites today. Pornhub, RedTube, YouPorn, PornMD, PornIQ, GayTube, Tube8, XTube, Brazzers, Reality Kings, are just A FEW of the long list of sites MindGeek controls.

Over the years, MindGeek amassed a small army of failing sites to create their own online porn empire. All told, Mindgeek has involvement with over 100 different sites.1 This type of control is highly regulated in other industries but, of course, this is the porn industry.

When attempting to quantify their influence on the online porn industry, the word “monopoly” has come up more than a few times. In 2013, the adult industry news website XBIZ described MindGeek as “the largest adult entertainment operator globally.”2

They currently generate more traffic than Amazon, Facebook, or Twitter, and trail only Google and Netflix in terms of bandwidth consumed. They are massive, and have turned free streaming porn and porn advertising into essentially a one-man game. MindGeek’s organizational structure is also very complex, with an elaborate system of companies sprinkled all over the world including Cypress and Luxembourg, known tax havens.

The site allows users to upload their own content, and therein lies the HUGE, maybe criminal problem… MindGeek doesn’t regulate the types of videos being uploaded and often allows content that is illegal or stolen.

MindGeek has also become synonymous with controversy. The company, which previously operated under the names Mansef and Manwin, had trouble in 2009 when the Secret Service seized $6.4 million in funds from two fidelity bank accounts controlled by Mansef, with Feds accusing the syndicate of money laundering; and in 2012, its then-owner Fabian Thylmann, a young German programmer once hailed as the Mark Zuckerberg of porn, was arrested on charges of tax evasion.3 Thylmann’s legal troubles led to the sale of the company that is now controlled by Feras Antoon and David Marmorstein Tassillo.

With Pornhub, MindGeek essentially created the YouTube of porn. The site allows users to upload their own content, and therein lies the HUGE, maybe criminal problem. They do so with little to no regulation. MindGeek doesn’t regulate the types of videos being uploaded and often allows content that is illegal or stolen. To upload a video, you don’t need an ID or background check—just provide an email address and you’re in.

Now Pornhub claims to have strict rules around the type of content they allow, and claim to forbid illegal and underage content. But tell that to Rose Kalemba who, in 2009, discovered her rape as a 14-year-old broadcasted all over Pornhub. According to Kalemba, she pleaded with Pornhub to have the content removed for over six months, but her pleas were ignored.4 Meanwhile her rape at age 14 was viewed over 400,000 times.

Stories like Rose’s have become more and more common, including one from last October, when a missing 15-year-old girl was found in 58 adult videos posted on Pornhub, Snapchat, and Periscope.5

It appears MindGeek doesn’t care who’s uploading content. They also don’t bother to verify simple, legal details like age, if the sex and filming was consensual, or if the “performers” agreed to public exposure…According to the (British) Internet Watch Foundation, there are over 100 cases of children being sexually abused on Pornhub.

It may be because the real crime of MindGeek is that they are complicit in broadcasting sex trafficking and child rape across the internet, and therefore won’t restrict it. They don’t police themselves, fail to follow laws and—what’s worse—governments have yet to crack down on them.

They can play innocent, but then why does Pornhub allow video titles to be posted including the phrases “teen slapped,” and “innocent teen abused,” or “scared teen cries” without regulation or investigation? With titles like those floating around their site, MindGeek isn’t just ignorant or negligent—they’re accomplices.

In fact, According to the (British) Internet Watch Foundation, there are over 100 cases of children being sexually abused on Pornhub.6

Now MindGeek is in the news again. This time, in the case of 22 women who were deceived and coerced by Michael Pratt, owner of GirlsDoPorn, into performing sex acts on film that were subsequently uploaded to Pornhub. These women sued GirlsDoPorn and won a $12.7 million lawsuit against the company. Pornhub, of course, was a major distributor of GirlsDoPorn and even continued to host their criminal videos, months after the trial.

According to a federal indictment, Pratt and his co-conspirators produced child pornography and trafficked a minor. Pratt reportedly fled the United States for New Zealand and is currently wanted on a federal warrant. Now, according to cryptopolitan.com, Pratt is considered the ringleader of the sex ring, and Mindgeek CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Marmorstein Tassillo remain persons of interest in the case.7

MindGeek’s mystique is being exposed. And regardless of your personal opinion about porn, their activities have become criminal and they must be held accountable. To put it plainly, as long as they continue to operate, the world is a more dangerous place for women, teenagers, and children.

And so if you’re of those stuck at home right now with nothing to do, head over to Exodus Cry’s website and peruse their campaign—and maybe get involved in fighting one of the most poisonous organizations in our history.

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