Pornhub is set to make users uploading content verify their identities with biometric data, as part of new measures intended to crack down on illegal and inappropriate content on the site.

Following a December 2020 New York Times article, reporting that MindGeek’s hugely popular porn site had hosted content featuring children, Pornhub banned new uploads and historical content from unverified users.

Last week, Pornhub announced that beyond verified content studio partners, individuals wanting to upload to the site will need to be verified through Pornhub’s Model Program. To get verified users will need to confirm their identities through Yoti, a digital identity verification service. For this, official identification documents such as government-issued IDs will be checked against biometric data, which could include fingerprints and facial recognition.

MindGeek’s site, the parent company of Pornhub, said the process would give an “added layer of protection in Pornhub’s uploader verification system.”

It added that the measures, alongside new moderation processes, would help “set the standard for compliance programs in the technology and social media industries. These comprehensive measures for verification, moderation and detection will ensure Pornhub is the safest platform online, and at the forefront of combating and eradicating illegal content.”

In April 2020, Pornhub hired US law firm Kaplan Hecker & Fink LLP to undertake a review of the site’s processes, which is still ongoing, with a view to overhauling its verification and moderation systems. Following the New York Times investigation, Mastercard and Visa blocked their customers from using the payment services on the site.

The announcement of biometric data use raises issues about potential problems this may cause for some Pornhub users. People whose facial appearance may have changed significantly since their government ID photographs were taken could potentially struggle to use their faces for verification, plus there’s the potential privacy implications of having your biometric data associated with a porn site.

Yoti has said that it is working with the transgender charity Sparkle and is researching issues affecting the transgender community.

To guard against content that gets removed from the site being uploaded again, Pornhub is banning downloads of videos it hosts, unless posted by verified users giving consent for the download function. The site is also beefing up its moderation system team and expanding its list of banned keywords.

A ‘trusted flagger’ program allowing non-profit organisation partners, including child protection bodies, is also being launched. Organizations such as the US’ National Center for Missing & Exploited Children will be able to alert Pornhub’s moderation team to potential violations on the site.

As well as Pornhub chiefs, many sex workers who make money by uploading material to the site will be hoping that the new measures cause Mastercard and Visa to reconsider their bans. When the bans were announced Pornhub said the moves were “crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods.”

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