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Pornhub accused of being ‘criminal enterprise’ in lawsuit filed by women alleging exploitation

34 women have sued Pornhub owner MindGeek, claiming they were exploited by having explicit videos of them hosted on the site, which they called a “criminal enterprise”.

The lawsuit, filed in California on Thursday (June 17), alleges claims under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. As well as sex trafficking violations, the lawsuit features claims of breaches of child exploitation, racketeering and public disclosure of private facts laws.

Pornhub responded by calling the allegations “utterly absurd, completely reckless and categorically false”.

The lawsuit against the Canadian company features claims that videos of the women were uploaded to Pornhub without their consent, including content filmed when they were under the age of 18.

One of the 34 women who joined the lawsuit told CBS News that a video of her nude was filmed by her boyfriend when she was aged 17, then uploaded to Pornhub without her knowledge or consent.

The woman said that the video was viewed more than 200,000 times, including by people studying at the college she was attending. She said she was forced to leave the college and study elsewhere, and suffered a sense of shame and isolation.

Brown Rudnick, the law firm that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the 34 women, called it a “landmark case”.

The firm said: “Pornhub and MindGeek knowingly profited from videos depicting rape, child sexual exploitation, revenge porn, trafficking, and other non-consensual sexual content.”

Pornhub told BBC News: “Pornhub has zero tolerance for illegal content and investigates any complaint or allegation made about content on our platforms.” It added that the site “takes every complaint regarding the abuse of its platform seriously, including those of the plaintiffs in this case.”

In December 2020, a New York Times investigation alleged that Pornhub featured children in explicit content it hosted, and hosted rape-related videos.

That report helped prompt MindGeek to overhaul Pornhub’s content moderation and verification processes, and remove hundreds of thousands of videos from the site.

Michael Bowe, the lawyer representing the 34 women, told CBS News: “The online porn industry has essentially been the Red Light District of commerce. 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.”

Pornhub said it would not let the “hyperbolic language in the lawsuit distract from the fact that Pornhub has in place a safety and security policy that surpasses that of any other major platform on the internet.”

Read next: Pornhub removed over 650K items that breached its content rules in 2020

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Jamie F
Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice, among others. He is also the creative force behind the Audible podcast Beast Master.

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