Pornhub, parent company MindGeek sued for allegedly profiting off videos of sexual assault

Pornhub, parent company MindGeek sued for allegedly profiting off videos of sexual assault
AP Photo/John Locher
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A bombshell lawsuit was filed Thursday against Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek, accusing the adult website of hosting and profiting off videos depicting rape and the sexual exploitation of children. 

34 women have joined the civil lawsuit, accusing MindGeek of running a “criminal enterprise.” 

“MindGeek is the most dominant online pornography company in the world. It is also one of the largest human trafficking ventures in the world. And it is likely the largest non-regulatory repository of child pornography in North America and well beyond,” the lawsuit asserts.

In the lawsuit, it is emphasized that the case against MindGeek is not about porn, but about child exploitation, rape, and coercion.

“This is a case about rape, not pornography,” it reads. “It is a case about the rape and sexual exploitation of children. It is a case about the rape and sexual exploitation of men and women. And it is a case about each of these defendants knowingly and intentionally electing to capitalize and profit from the horrendous exploitation and abuse of tens of thousands of other human beings so they could make more than the enormous sums of money they would have otherwise made anyway.”

CBS News reported that MindGeek owns and operates over 100 pornographic websites, including high-traffic sites such as RedTube, YouPorn, and Xtube. “MindGeek also owns porn production companies that create content, but for years, a majority of the content on Pornhub was uploaded by unverified users. MindGeek operates some paid-subscription sites, but Pornhub is free for anyone to access and earns money through advertising revenue and optional, premium subscriptions.”

“The online porn industry has essentially been the Red Light District of commerce,” said Michael Bowe, who’s representing the dozens of women fighting back against MindGeek. “This new industry of online porn, for the last 10 years, has been allowed by law enforcement, government entities, to operate by a different set of rules. Basically, no rules or oversight.”

The civil case is based on racketeering laws, which CBS notes are typically used to go after mobsters and drug gangs.

Some of the victims, videos of whom have been posted Pornhub without their consent and were as young as 15 at the time, joined the suit after reaching out to activist Laila Mickelwait.

Mickelwait has been relentless in her pursuit against the exploitation and sex trafficking of young men and women, including minors. Mickelwait founded the Traffickinghub movement and started a petition to shut down Pornhub, which has been signed by more than 2.2 million people. 

One of the underage victims, known as “Michelle,” told CBS “that she was targeted at age 15 by an abuser who has since been convicted of blackmailing children to sexually abuse themselves on camera.”

She said that the videos’ uploads on Pornhub had “way, way worse” of an impact on her than even her blackmailer’s initial abuse. “It was only when my videos went on sites like Pornhub that my life started to become something that I couldn’t live out properly,” she said, adding that she stopped eating, leaving the house and once attempted suicide.

Michelle reported the videos to Pornhub during the fall of 2018 and continued flagging content for the site to take down throughout 2019. And although Pornhub took down all unverified content last year, Michele said she continues to find images of her abuse re-uploaded on other websites. She said, “Any other place I find my videos there’s some type of mention of Pornhub or where they originated from, and my name was always with them.”

Strangers continue to contact her about her videos, she said, and one man even showed up at her house, telling her that he’d found her through Pornhub.

Speaking to the Daily Wire, advocate and sex-trafficking survivor Eliza Bleu said that she hopes the suit spurs accountability from MindGeek and justice for survivors. 

“Every single time I see another lawsuit against Pornhub my heart sinks,” Bleu said in an emailed statement. “Half of me is devastated knowing how much pain and agony the survivors have had to live through in order to even get to the point where the lawsuit is filed.”

“I think about the survivors’ assault or multiple assaults. I think about the survivors finding their sexual exploitation on Pornhub and desperately begging the platform to remove the content. I think about the survivors watching the ‘views’ of their assault reaching the hundreds of thousands on the platform. I think about the child survivors trying to process what is happening, and desperately trying to navigate the removal of the material on their own. I think about the long-term emotional and physical devastation placed on each survivor.”

“The other half of me,” Bleu continued, “is filled with admiration for each of the survivors suing Pornhub.”

“The strength and bravery that it takes to relive some of the worst moments of your life over and over again is beyond comprehension. These survivors have been willing to take on the ‘MindGeek Mafia’ to ensure that the company will no longer be able to knowingly profit off of child sexual abuse material, revenge porn, sexual assault, and human trafficking.”

“It fills me with hope to see survivors willing to be a voice for the voiceless. Each survivor in each lawsuit is the voice for many survivors that either haven’t stepped forward yet, or for those that never will for whatever reason. Some survivors of Pornhub unfortunately are not with us to see this day. Some died by suicide. Some died by self-harm or other causes. In some cases, we will never know what happened.”

“My hope is that each survivor receives the justice that they deserve and that Pornhub/ MindGeek as a whole is held accountable,” Bleu’s statement closed.

MindGeek released a statement concerning the suit which said that “any suggestion” that MindGeek “tolerates or celebrates this material is patently false.”

“The spread of illegal content is an existential threat to the internet, and every platform has the moral obligation to join the fight against it,” the statement said. “Illegal material on the internet harms its victims, internet users, and all platforms that operate online. Any suggestion that the company tolerates or celebrates this material is patently false.”

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