Pornhub's parent company faces $500M class-action lawsuit: 'Looking for justice'

A Pornhub logo is displayed at the company's booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 24, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Getty Images/Ethan Miller

Pornhub's parent company MindGeek has been slapped with a $500 million class-action lawsuit headed by a Canadian woman who claims that she was featured in pornographic videos uploaded online without her consent. 

The law firm Diamond & Diamond Lawyers announced last Thursday that it filed the class-action litigation against MindGeek on behalf of Ontario resident Christine Wing. Wing claims that three videos of a sexual nature were posted to Pornhub in May 2020 without her knowledge and the website didn't verify whether she consented to them being online.

The lawsuit is open to any and all Canadian individuals depicted in sexually explicit videos or images on Pornhub, content that may include sexual abuse material, child sexual abuse and all other non-consensual intimate content. The law firm alleges that such materials likely still reside on the website’s domain despite repeated requests for their removal. 

Peter Gentala, senior legal counsel for the Washington-based National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told The Christian Post the lawsuit is only a “natural result” considering what was revealed about Pornhub during inquiries by the Canadian parliament.

Last February, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Information, Privacy, and Ethics heard testimony from victims who had images of their abuse distributed online and American lawyer Michael Bowe.

The attorney informed the committee that his investigation found hundreds of sexual abuse and trafficking cases hosted on MindGeek sites, including one video which showed the rape of a 15-year-old girl. 

“This class action is just another place where you see the survivors of sexual abuse on Pornhub are stepping forward and looking for justice after what has happened to them,” Gentala said. “It's a large, massive internet presence, and it was built on this concept that people from around the world can send their sex videos in, and we'll put them up and make money off of them. That was the idea behind it.” 

Gentala noted that the problem with this business model is that it appears “little thought or intentionality” was put behind it, paving the way for “rampant” child sex abuse material and other illegal content on Pornhub.

The NCOSE attorney said he hopes the lawsuit in Ontario will lead to “justice” for Pornhub victims, pointing to the “scale of the horror.”

"We're not talking about hundreds of thousands of videos; we're talking about millions of them," he said. "And we're talking about a massive impact, and we may also be talking about survivors who may not even understand at this point yet that they have been victimized using Pornhub as a platform. Or, they may not understand how deeply harmful or extensive that harm was." 

Another class-action lawsuit was filed last July against MindGeek on behalf of two child sex abuse survivors, a case being presided over by U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler of the Northern District of Alabama, Western Division.

The victims allege that the pornography company reviewed and distributed videos depicting their rape without attempting to verify their ages or if they consented to the videos being uploaded. 

In February, the judge rejected MindGeek’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. The company argued that it is protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants a certain level of immunity to online platforms that publish materials from a third party. 

“Pornhub was trying to hide behind the Communications Decency Act, which right there sounds like a non sequitur,” Gentala told CP. “A business that's based on sexual exploitation, trying to use something called the Communications Decency Act to prevent civil accountability. That's not what Congress had in mind, but that's what Pornhub was trying to accomplish by bringing that forward." 

Gentala believes MindGeek is a “mystery organization in a lot of ways," but all of the information that has come to light within the past 24 months indicates that the “fact-finding process is just getting started.”

A December 2020 New York Times exposé drew attention to potential criminality and exploitation on Pornhub, detailing how the website profits from abusive material such as “child rapes” and other horrific “racist and misogynist content.” 

As a result of the article, Pornhub announced it would enact new standards, such as only allowing verified users to post content, preventing users from downloading all materials and partnering with nonprofits that would help flag certain content. 

Dawn Hawkins, senior vice president and executive director of NCOSE, contested in a December 2020 statement that Pornhub’s claims that it would improve its standards should not be trusted.

“Pornhub executives are liars when they claim they care about safety,"  she wrote. "Beyond their extensive history of facilitating and profiting from crimes of sexual abuse and exploitation, we know many survivors who have repeatedly reached out to Pornhub to have nonconsensually-shared material — as well as videos of rape — removed, but their requests were ignored."

After announcing it had changed its standards, Pornhub removed millions of videos and admitted there were at least 118 instances of child sex abuse material.

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