Sex trafficking survivors urge Canadian Parliament to open criminal investigation into MindGeek

Getty Images/Oscar Wong
Getty Images/Oscar Wong

Anti-pornography advocates and survivors of sexual exploitation have called for the Canadian Parliament to open a criminal investigation into MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub and over 160 other websites that profit off videos showing "rape, nonconsensual pornography, and child sexual abuse material."

In a 12-page letter to the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, a collective of 104 survivors of sexual exploitation and 525 nongovernmental organizations from 65 nations called for a criminal investigation into MindGeek, which is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. 

Joining the group is the Washington-based National Center of Sexual Exploitation, whose Law Center filed a legal brief on Feb. 19 backing an investigation into "how the nonconsensual content on MindGeek websites is violating international legal norms against slavery and torture.”

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“MindGeek has profited from rape, nonconsensual pornography, and child sexual abuse material for years, and it is time to open a criminal investigation to hold this company accountable,” said NCOSE senior legal counsel Dani Pinter in a statement Monday.

On Feb. 1, the Canadian House of Commons Ethics Committee held public hearings to hear witnesses' testimonies about MindGeek’s alleged practices. Four days later, MindGeek executives were questioned by the ethics committee. 

Multiple reports have emerged revealing how Pornhub, one of the largest pornography websites in the world, has allowed illegal content on its site and has been slow to verify consent and remove the videos.

“[I]t apparently stores a copy of all content on its servers, even child sexual abuse material (CSAM); and it turns out that MindGeek executives even claimed a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children but NCMEC says no such partnership exists. These issues are just the tip of the iceberg,” Pinter added. 

“The outcry from such an overwhelming number of survivors and organizations against MindGeek’s exploitative business model must be heard, and we are proud to stand with them. Survivors deserve justice and Canada has a unique opportunity to fully investigate MindGeek.” 

Last month, MindGeek executives insisted that they were trying to create a “safe environment for people to consume adult content.”

Michael Bowe, an American attorney who has been investigating Pornhub for a year, was among those who spoke at the Feb. 1 hearing where he cited the case of a girl younger than 10, who had been trafficked and had child sexual abuse material made of her. The material had been posted on Pornhub for over 10 years and had stayed there until late last year.

Pornhub came under considerable scrutiny in December when New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristofdetailed how the company had failed to enforce its policies and had contributed to an explosion of child sex abuse online. In the column, Kristof described the porn giant as "[pedophile] Jeffrey Epstein times 1000."

Later that month, 40 women who were victims of Girls Do Porn — the owners of which have been charged with various sex crimes — filed a lawsuit against Pornhub, claiming the site had profited off their exploitation as victims of sex trafficking.

The United States Department of Justice effectively shuttered Girls Do Porn in 2019 when its senior staff were arrested and charged with various crimes. The site had been a partner of MindGeek up until that point.

Launched last year by the group ExodusCry, a petition calling for Pornhub to be shut down given documented link to trafficking has garnered nearly 2.2 million signatures. 

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