This article was published on December 9, 2020

Pornhub ends downloads and restricts uploads as its reckoning begins

Pornhub ends downloads and restricts uploads as its reckoning begins

As 2020 comes to a close, Pornhub is starting to face the music over concerns about its failure to keep objectionable content off its platform.

The site announced today that it’s only going to allow uploads from verified users and partners, that it’s banning downloads (except for paid content from verified uploaders), and that it’s expanding its moderation practices — more measures will follow in the new year.

The moves follow a scathing New York Times piece by columnist Nicholas Kristof from last week, in which he highlighted the tragedy and long-trailing trauma that haunts the people exploited in non-consensual content and child sexual abuse material (CSAM) hosted on the platform.

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Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, which is managed from Montreal and also runs more than 100 other porn sites, is also in hot water with Visa and MasterCard. The two financial services giants noted this week that they would investigate their financial links to the firm; they indicated that if they found evidence of illegal activity, they would take action, such as ending support for payments.

That would likely hurt Pornhub’s ability to receive subscription fees, as well as payments towards premium content.

Pornhub receives more than 3.5 billion visits each months, and 1.36 million hours of video are uploaded to the site each year. It’s not only a massive operation, but it also has a huge responsibility in moderating the content that people share and see there.

In its announcement, Pornhub talked up the processes it already has in place for moderating content. But as Kristof’s story illustrates, faults in those processes allow a lot to slip through the cracks, from footage depicting rape as well as revenge porn clips, to suggested searches for content featuring minors.

The tragic stories of the young people profiled in Kristof’s piece, who have been ostracized, become homeless, and suicidal, shows that this sort of material circulating online can devastate lives all too easily — and continue to do so for years after. It’s time for Pornhub, and other sites like it, to do far better.

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