The enormity of the moderating task facing Pornhub as it attempts to keep illegal content off its platform has been laid bare in the site’s first transparency report.

The report, published last week by the Mindgeek-owned porn site, showed that in 2020 Pornhub removed 653,465 pieces of content flagged as potentially infringing on regulations.

Content featuring minors, non-consensual actions, violence including depictions of rape, hate speech, bodily fluids or incest were given as examples of material that could be removed for breaching rules or laws.

The report revealed that in 2020 Pornhub received 1,081 legal requests, and removed 544,021 pieces of content for infringements of the Digital Millennium Copyright Protection Act (DMCA).

Pornhub is attempting to overhaul its content and processes to keep harmful and illegal material off the site, following reports last year that it failed to prevent content featuring minors getting on the site. It has banned new uploads and historical content from unverified users and is strengthening moderation and verification processes, the company says.

Critics have said that as well as allowing harmful content online, Pornhub has allowed copyright infringement to run rampant. The report showed that beyond removing 544,021 pieces of content for DMCA infringements, Pornhub prevented 106,841 other pieces of copyrighted content from being published.

Pornhub said that 98 percent of those 106,841 pieces of content were flagged using MediaWise — content identification software developed by US tech company Vobile.

As part of the moderation overhaul, Pornhub said that all its content will be reviewed by both automated systems and human moderators before being posted. In the report Pornhub acknowledged the challenges of humans making judgements about violence in porn.

“Remember, a kink that looks degrading or humiliating is not the same thing as an illegal, abusive, or non-consensual act. What goes on between consenting adults is exactly that: consensual. Non-consent must be distinguished from consent to relinquish control,” the company says.

“We recognize that content that is categorized as BDSM, hardcore, or rough may often contain graphic content. Although some may consider BDSM, hardcore, or rough sex as ‘degrading’ or ‘dehumanizing’, these words are entirely subjective. Essentially, what is degrading and dehumanizing to you may be empowering and dignifying for someone practicing safe BDSM play.”

“Our moderation team carefully evaluates content in order to determine whether what some may consider to be ‘extreme’ fantasies actually violate our terms of service and related guidelines.”

According to a new study, one in eight porn videos promoted to first-time users reviewed on Pornhub, XVideos and XHamster were labelled with text describing sexually violent acts. It’s worth noting that not all those sites are owned by Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek.

The study, Sexual Violence as a Sexual Script in Mainstream Online Pornography, was conducted over six months in 2017 and 2018, and was published last week in the British Journal of Criminology. The three sites were chosen because they were the UK’s most popular porn sites by visitor numbers.

Researchers looked for descriptions of sexual violence in the titles and descriptions of the videos, but not for actual depictions of sexual violence in footage. In 131,738 videos, over 8,000 titles referred to aggression or forced sexual activity. Additionally, 5,785 titles referred to sex between family members.

“Consenting adults are entitled to their own sexual preferences, as long as they are legal and consensual, and all kinks that meet these criteria are welcome on Pornhub,” a spokesperson for Pornhub, which has removed millions of videos since the research was conducted, told BBC News.

50 women have sued Mindgeek for damages in relation to the company Girls Do Porn, which was indicted for sex trafficking in 2019. The women claim that Pornhub knew about alleged criminal activities of Girls Do Porn, but continued to host its content and did not comply with requests to remove it.

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