MindGeek has reached a legal settlement with 50 women who sued the company, which runs a multitude of porn sites including Pornhub, after the women claimed they were coerced to appear in porn videos or deceived about where the videos would be distributed.
The women sued Montreal-based MindGeek because sites it owned, including Pornhub, hosted videos they featured in that were supplied by now-defunct porn site GirlsDoPorn. The owners and operators of GirlsDoPorn, which was based in San Diego before being taken down in 2020, have been charged in the US with sex trafficking.
The terms of the settlement were not made public, and on October 15, 2021 it was announced that the case had been dismissed due to an agreement between MindGeek and the 50 women being reached.
In the original lawsuit, filed in December 2020, the women demanded at least $1 million each in damages.
In the suit the women —who were not named— claimed that MindGeek continued to do business with GirlsDoPorn until late 2019, even though GirlsDoPorn was under scrutiny for alleged fraud and allegedly coercing models to create porn.
It was found that GirlsDoPorn chiefs lied to women about where their porn content would appear. Some were told that their videos would only be distributed outside the US and among private collectors, only to find them uploaded to the GirlsDoPorn site.
Their content also appeared on other sites, such as Pornhub, helping prompt the suit against MindGeek.
GirlsDoPorn was investigated for sex trafficking by the US Department of Justice, with six people associated with the site charged with crimes. Ruben Andre Garcia, a porn actor and producer for the site, was given a 20-year jail sentence. Michael James Pratt, the site’s owner, is currently a fugitive.
“The parties reached a mutual resolution to resolve the dispute and the terms are confidential,” MindGeek said of the settlement.
“MindGeek has zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted a comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate any illegal material from its community. We are committed to remaining at the forefront of internet safety, and taking every measure to prevent bad actors from posting illegal content online,” the company added.
A separate lawsuit was filed in San Diego by 22 women against GirlsDoPorn in January 2020. The women were awarded a total of $13 million in damages after accusing the site of fraud.
MindGeek and its flagship porn site Pornhub are still facing increasing legal and political pressure, despite the conclusion of the lawsuit filed by the 50 women. Another group of women is suing Pornhub in California, with the plaintiffs alleging that they were exploited by explicit videos of them hosted on the site without their permission.
The women have alleged that Pornhub breached of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Pornhub has called the claims “utterly absurd, completely reckless and categorically false”.
MindGeek did register a legal victory of sorts earlier in October 2021. A lawsuit filed by two child protection organizations in France seeking to force telecommunications companies to block porn sites including Pornhub and Redtube, which is also owned by MindGeek, was rejected by a court.
Following legal pressures plus tough new rules from credit card and other financial companies, many porn sites are scrambling to ensure that illegal and unethical content does not appear on their site.
Pornhub removed hundreds of thousands of videos from the site in 2020, after it was accused of hosting illegal content.