PornHub Just Announced Some Sweeping Changes & It’s All Thanks To A Blistering ‘New York Times’ Exposé

An alarming New York Times report published last week reveals the company routinely profits from child trafficking, exploitation and assault

It's one of those stories that makes you want to slam a fist down Bernie-Sanders-style and shout "That's journalism, bitches!". Or maybe that's just me. 

Yes, thanks to 'The Children of Pornhub', a disturbing New York Times report exposing how the Canadian company profits from the trafficking and assault of women and girls, the company has taken its first steps towards changing its policy settings.

And look, props to the marketing team, because despite an adult entertainment platform, Pornhub has managed to build up a 'wholesome' – maybe even progressive – reputation. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, they offered free premium subscriptions to users who agreed to isolate at home, publicly donated to the Black Lives Matter movement and won over Reddit bros in a friendly-but-ever-so-slightly-cheeky AMA. 

But the New York Times story, published last week, has exposed the extent of the violence and exploitation lurking beneath the multibillion dollar company's friendly face. 

As NYT journalist Nicholas Kristof writes, "[Pornhub] is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags." Much of this has been enabled by the fact that anyone could both upload videos to the site and download them off it. This means that even if police step in to have a violent video removed, it's usually too late. Courtesy of the company's download function, harmful videos continue to circulate and proliferate. (Kristof's story profiles the horrible case of a 19-year-old woman who continues to struggle with addiction and homelessness because of a video uploaded to the site when she was 14). 

In a statement released this morning, the Montréal-based company has announced it's making basically the exact policy changes that Kristof suggests. "At Pornhub, nothing is more important than the safety of our community," the statement begins, followed by some more PR fluff that predictably fails to own up to any wrongdoing. It later continues: "Going forward, we will only allow properly identified users to upload content. We have banned downloads. We have made some key expansions to our moderation process, and we recently launched a Trusted Flagger Program with dozens of non-profit organizations. Earlier this year, we also partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and next year we will issue our first transparency report".

Kristof responded to the changes in a Twitter thread this morning. His initial take is that "a great deal depends on how responsibly Pornhub implements [the new policy]" and that the site "hasn't earned [his] trust at all", though he concedes the announcement "seems significant". He added: "A great deal will also depend on whether past content, already on the site, is vetted or removed." He also thanked those who were willing to share their stories with him and the public at large. "A special thanks to those young women and men who shared their stories and documentation about Pornhub, because they didn't want other kids to endure what they had suffered. It was their courage, their stories, that made this happen."

You can find the full Twitter thread right here.

UPDATE 11th December 2020: Both Visa and Mastercard are cutting ties with Pornhub, according to a new report from VICE News. Earlier this week, the companies said they'd look into allegations of sexual abuse imagery on Pornhub and their relationship to MindGeek (Pornhub's parent company).

Both companies have now confirmed they'll block the use of their cards on the site – much to the chagrin of Pornhub, who have called the news "exceptionally disappointing".

Written by Reena Gupta, a Melbourne-based writer at MTV Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @purpletank