1 million back petition to shut down Pornhub over alleged sex trafficking videos

A petition demanding that the popular pornography website Pornhub be closed down for allegedly profiting off of and enabling sex trafficking has surpassed 1 million supporters. 

Laila Mickelwait, the director of abolition for the non-religious and nonpartisan anti-trafficking group Exodus Cry, recently launched a “Traffickinghub” petition calling for the shutdown of one of the most trafficked websites in the world for hosting “sex trafficking and child rape films.”

As of Wednesday morning, the petition has garnered more than 1,007,000 signatures and has been endorsed by around 300 human rights groups worldwide. 

“Pornhub, the world's largest and most popular porn site, has been repeatedly caught enabling, hosting, and profiting from videos of child rape, sex trafficking, and other forms of non-consensual content exploiting women and minors,” stated the petition.

“We're calling for Pornhub to be shut down and its executives held accountable for these crimes.”

The petition cited multiple examples of Pornhub allegedly being connected to sex trafficking, including the posting of videos of an abducted minor being sexually assaulted.

“A 15-year-old girl who had been missing for a year was finally found after her mother was tipped off that her daughter was being featured in videos on the site — 58 such videos of her rape and sexual abuse were discovered on Pornhub,” continued the petition.

“Her trafficker, who was seen in the videos raping the child, was identified using surveillance footage of him at a 7-Eleven where he was spotted with his victim. He is now facing a felony charge.”

In a statement released Tuesday, Mickelwait denounced the lack of accountability when it comes to the content Pornhub accounts are allowed to upload to the website.

“All it takes to upload content to Pornhub is an email address — no government-issued ID is required,” she stated. “Pornhub doesn't bother to reliably verify the age or the consent of the millions featured in the videos it hosts and profits from, yet it monetizes those videos with no questions asked.”

Mickelwait said the website is “set up for exploitation and is infested with videos of the real rape, trafficking, abuse, and exploitation of women and children.”

“We have significant evidence and it is just the tip of the iceberg,” she contended. 

In February, Megha Mohan of the British Broadcasting Corporation reported that dozens of people have claimed videos of their sexual assaults were uploaded to Pornhub.

The BBC interviewed Rose Kalemba, a 25-year-old who spent months in 2009 trying to get Pornhub to take down videos of her being raped as a teenager.

"The titles of the videos were 'teen crying and getting slapped around,' 'teen getting destroyed,' 'passed out teen.' One had over 400,000 views," explained Kalemba.

"The worst videos were the ones where I was passed out. Seeing myself being attacked where I wasn't even conscious was the worst."

In response, Pornhub sent the BBC a statement claiming that the Kalemba videos date back to before the current owners of the website took control.

“Since the change in ownership, Pornhub has continuously put in place the industry's most stringent safeguards and policies when it comes to combating unauthorized and illegal content, as part of our commitment to combating child sex abuse material,” stated Pornhub.

“The company employs Vobile, a state-of-the-art, third-party fingerprinting software that scans any new uploads for potential matches to unauthorized material and makes sure the original video doesn't go back up on the platform.”

In March, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Pornhub.

“In several notable incidents over the past year, Pornhub made content available worldwide showing women and girls that were victims of trafficking being raped and exploited,” wrote Sasse in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

“Pornhub must not escape scrutiny. I therefore request that the Department open an investigation into Pornhub and its parent entity MindGeek Holding SARL for their involvement in this disturbing pipeline of exploiting children and other victims and survivors of sex trafficking.”

In response to Sasse's letter, the company said in a statement that Pornhub has an “extensive team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing every single upload." Pornhub claims a “steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and under-age material.”

“Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate,” the company’s statement reads.  “Our content moderation goes above and beyond the DOJ’s recently announced Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.”

The Justice Department in March announced the launch of the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse created in conjunction with the counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, the United kingdom and leading tech companies. 

The principles are designed to “ensure online platforms and services have the systems they need to combat online child sexual exploitation” and seek to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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