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Canadian Committee Recommends Tough Actions Against Pornhub

The ethics committee released a report recommending that the Canadian federal government strengthen laws to curb the spread of child sexual exploitation material and rape videos online.

Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization. Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively-affiliated. Though our organization is non-legislative, we fully support the regulation of already illegal forms of pornography and sexual exploitation, including the fight against sex trafficking.

Since a New York Times article in December 2020 gave visibility to many reported cases of Montreal-based porn giant Pornhub profiting from nonconsensual content, a Canada Parliament ethics committee has reviewed the porn site and its parent company, MindGeek.

Following multiple witness and survivor testimonies that left members of the Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics “horrified,” the committee released a report last week recommending that the federal government strengthen laws to curb the spread of child sexual exploitation material and rape videos online.

The Toronto Star reports that the new report includes 14 recommendations for the federal government, including that it explores “means to hold online platforms liable” for failing to stop illegal content from appearing on their websites.

Related: MindGeek, Pornhub’s Parent Company, Sued For Reportedly Hosting Videos Of Child Sex Trafficking

It also asks the government to develop ways to “ensure that Canadians victimized by the posting of an image or video online without their consent on sites like Pornhub have the right to have that content removed immediately and to be given the benefit of the doubt with respect to the nonconsensual nature of the content.”

“In my 17 years in Parliament, I have never been as shaken as what I was, hearing from some of these young women,” said committee member and MP Charlie Angus during a news conference after the report’s release. “We’ve come to present, across party lines, a unanimous report that has global implications.”

In its inquiry, the committee heard from more than 30 witnesses, from victims to cabinet ministers, to top executives at the company and police.

The report adds that verification for age and consent should be mandated for platforms operating in Canada, and that legislation be strengthened to better protect people from being exploited on the internet.

At the law enforcement level, Politico reports that there have been calls for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the country’s federal police force, to launch an investigation into MindGeek and Pornhub. A review is underway, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki confirmed to the committee this spring. But the force does not comment on incidents that may or may not be under official investigation, she said.

Related: 13 Times MindGeek Executives Reportedly Didn’t Tell The Full Truth To Canadian Lawmakers

What did MindGeek and Porhub do, exactly?

To catch you up if any of this information about the porn giant is new to you, after an article called “The Children of Pornhub” by award-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof was published in The New York Times in December 2020, Pornhub and MindGeek have faced intense media and public scrutiny.

This long-overdue reckoning follows years of allegations that the company profits from child sexual abuse material (CSAM)—also known as “child porn”—and image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) or nonconsensual content. Payment services including Visa, Discover, and Mastercard investigated the allegations made against MindGeek, confirmed the existence of illegal content on Pornhub, and severed ties with the adult company just days after the NYT article.

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Then, Canada’s Parliament ethics committee moved to look into allegations of nonconsensual content and child exploitation being hosted on Pornhub.

Related: What’s Going On With Pornhub? A Simplified Timeline Of Events

Despite Mindgeek’s CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo assuring the committee that their over 100 porn sites and subsidiaries “should have zero child sexual abuse material on our websites,” the ethics committee heard from a number of child exploitation survivors who reportedly had images of them hosted on and profited from on MindGeek’s own sites.

To better understand the effects of abusive content being available for consumption on one of the world’s biggest porn sites, survivors provided witness statements to the Canadian committee over the course of a couple of meetings earlier this year during their inquiry into MindGeek and Pornhub.

Each of their stories includes devastating experiences of sexual abuse, the discovery of their images on Pornhub, harassment by peers and strangers, negative effects to their mental and physical health, and the anger of dealing with a company that so badly let them down. Their experiences speak to the gravity of MindGeek’s alleged crimes in refusing to immediately take down reported content, and the deep impact image-based abuse has on survivors.

Pressure for accountability

In addition to the ethics committee report’s call for more accountability on porn sites in Canada, a coalition of anti-exploitation and anti-trafficking advocates from 525 organizations and 104 survivors all from 65 countries signed a letter praising the ETHI committee’s inquiry and calling on the Canadian government to encourage law enforcement to launch a full criminal investigation into MindGeek.

Based on the testimonies from Mindgeek’s executives, the porn company appears to have violated Canada’s child protection laws requiring reporting CSAM to the police. Since the MindGeek executives testified that their human moderators view every piece of content uploaded to their site, the letter concludes that MindGeek knowingly distributed CSAM and nonconsensual content. Because of their alleged failures to prevent the spread of illegal content, the letter states that MindGeek “cannot be trusted to self-regulate.”

Related: 50 “GirlsDoPorn” Sex Trafficking Survivors Sue Pornhub’s Parent Company For Profiting From Their Exploitation

So not only are there recommendations by the ethics committee into how porn sites like Pornhub should be held accountable, but survivors are taking action as well.

The Toronto Star also reports that a new lawsuit was filed on Thursday in California against MindGeek on behalf of more than 30 women from various countries, including Canada. The class-action suit stands in stark contrast to the testimony given by the two executives when they assured the ethics committee that nonconsensual content “has no place on our platform and it’s contrary to our values and our business model.” The lawsuit alleges that MindGeek facilitated a global trade in sexually exploitative images that has exposed underage girls and women around the world to unimaginable and ongoing harm.

This suit is the latest one in a growing number of lawsuits against Pornhub filed by a collective of nearly 100 trafficking and child exploitation survivors.

Why this matters

We believe it’s important for porn consumers and individuals everywhere to be aware of the fact that the porn industry, which masquerades as a for-the-people provider of cheap and harmless entertainment, is anything but that.

Even pornographic content that isn’t necessarily of trafficked or abused individuals has been shown by decades of research from respected institutions to negatively impact individuals, relationships, and society.

MindGeek needs to be held accountable for reportedly hosting and profiting off of illicit content like CSAM, and this list of recommendations by the ethics committee could be a step in the right direction. All the same, this is another opportunity for people everywhere to learn about the harmful effects of porn and the business practices of this harmful industry.

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