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50 “GirlsDoPorn” Trafficking Survivors Settle Lawsuit Against Pornhub’s Parent Company

A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit filed on behalf of 50 women who sued Pornhub’s parent company for hosting videos produced by porn company GirlsDoPorn.

By October 18, 2021No Comments
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A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit filed on behalf of 50 women who sued Pornhub’s parent company for hosting videos produced by former San Diego-based website GirlsDoPorn.com, NBC San Diego reports. The owners and operators of GirlsDoPorn were charged by federal prosecutors with sex trafficking in October 2019.

Reports say terms of the settlement were not disclosed in a brief court document filed Friday, October 15th, indicating a stipulated dismissal of the case brought by the plaintiffs, identified as Jane Does 1 through 50.

The survivors claim that Montreal-based MindGeek—the company that owns and operates over 60 porn sites, much of what people generally understand to be the mainstream porn industry—failed to moderate and remove videos from its sites featuring the women being sex trafficked.

The survivors also say that MindGeek maintained its business relationship with GirlsDoPorn even after years of reports of nonconsensual content and videos of coerced and trafficked individuals being featured in uploaded videos by the porn company.

NBC reports the suit alleged MindGeek’s business partnership with GirlsDoPorn continued through late 2019 and only ended because GirlsDoPorn ceased to exist amid a Department of Justice sex trafficking investigation.

Related: What Life Is Like For This Survivor After Being Sex Trafficked By “GirlsDoPorn”

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The lawsuit: an overview

In case you missed it, in December 2020, 40 women identified as “Jane Doe” filed a lawsuit against MindGeek, porn site giant Pornhub’s parent company, for allegedly knowingly profiting from images and videos of their sex trafficking nightmares and failing to properly moderate MindGeek-owned sites for the abusive videos.

Months later, 10 more women joined the suit. In total, the lawsuit is demanding more than $40 million in damages—at least $1 million per plaintiff—as well as the money MindGeek earned from hosting and promoting their videos and legal fees, Vice reports.

These women were reportedly trafficked by the amateur porn production company, “GirlsDoPorn,” many of whom were outright tricked, forced, and coerced into shooting sex on tape and then lied to about where the footage would end up.

Shortly after being filmed, in each of these women’s cases, the footage reportedly ended up on major porn sites accompanied by their real names and personal information. In many cases, these videos ended up on mainstream porn sites like Pornhub.

“As a proximate result of MindGeek’s knowing financial benefit and participation in GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture, Plaintiffs have suffered damages, including, but not limited to, severe emotional distress, significant trauma, attempted suicide, and social and familial ostracization,” the complaint stated. “Further, MindGeek has received ill-gotten gains by selling, marketing and exploiting videos featuring the Plaintiffs’ likenesses.”

It’s worth noting that Ruben Andre Garcia, 31, the performer in notorious porn company “GirlsDoPorn” videos, was sentenced in June 2021 to 20 years in prison and 10 years probation after pleading guilty to “conspiracy to commit sex trafficking” and “sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion.”

Related: 22 Women Paid $12.7 Million And Given Rare Ownership Rights In GirlsDoPorn Lawsuit

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Wait, what is “GirlsDoPorn,” again?

If you haven’t heard of the “GirlsDoPorn” case before or need a refresher, let’s back up.

A few years ago, in 2015 and earlier, hundreds of women were allegedly lured to San Diego for what many of them didn’t know were actually film shoots for GirlsDoPorn. They were fed alcohol and drugs, coerced into signing dense contracts with incomprehensible legal jargon, and subsequently raped on camera—for 7 painful hours, in some cases.

Related: Pornhub Just Removed Over Half Of The Site’s Content In A Purge Of Unverified Videos

A short time later, that footage was posted on GirlsDoPorn’s website and reportedly uploaded to other popular free porn tube sites, including Pornhub, despite the promise that the footage would only be distributed via DVDs on the other side of the world. Many of the women said viewers found and published their full names online, resulting in severe harassment and suicidal thoughts, for some of them.

Starting in 2016, nearly two dozen of the sexually exploited women took a risk and banded together to sue the GirlsDoPorn site owners, Michael Pratt, 36, and Matthew Wolfe, 37, as well as actor and recruiter Andre Garcia. After a years-long legal battle, a California judge in January 2020 not only ordered GirlsDoPorn to pay the 22 women $12.7 million in damages, but took a rare and unprecedented step: he granted them ownership rights to the content.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright called the operation a “fraudulent scheme” that targeted young women who “are mostly students with careers ahead of them who have only even considered Defendants’ solicitations to film a pornographic video due to some immediate and pressing financial need.”

Related: Visa And Mastercard Sever Ties With Pornhub Due To Abusive Content On The Site

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He ordered GirlsDoPorn’s founder Pratt, his business partner Wolfe, and porn actor Garcia to hand over all images, videos, likenesses, and copyrights and to take “active steps” to remove them from circulation.

Even still, porn consumers all over the internet who had the videos downloaded have continually uploaded and re-uploaded these GirlsDoPorn images and videos to multiple different porn sites over the last few years, even after the decision was handed down in January 2020.

It was a hope for the GirlsDoPorn trafficking survivors that Pornhub’s December 2020 decision to stop users from being able to download videos on the site and prohibit the upload of videos from unverified users would help to stop the spread of the GirlsDoPorn videos. The unfortunate truth is that the videos have been shared to other porn tube sites, and the doxing and harassment have escalated for the survivors.

Site owner still at large and criminally charged with sex trafficking

Buzzfeed News reports that the men behind GirlsDoPorn still face federal charges of sex trafficking and producing child porn, since some of the exploited individuals were 17 at the time of filming.

Wolfe is in custody and Garcia was sentenced. Pratt fled the US and is now a fugitive, likely in his home country of New Zealand, and a $50,000 reward is being offered by the FBI for tips that lead to his capture.

Image credit to the FBI

Attorneys for the men could not immediately be reached, but in a statement to Courthouse News Service, they said their clients “are focused on defending themselves against the criminal charges.”

“It’s vindication for the brave women who came forward after being manipulated and lied to by GirlsDoPorn,” Ed Chapin, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, told BuzzFeed News. “They were young and inexperienced, and their lives were changed because they were sucked in by this disgusting, fraudulent scheme.”

A genre of entitlement

Of course, not every porn company tricks, forces, or coerces performers to have sex on camera. Even so, unfortunately, it happens way too often—we’ve heard too many stories of the porn industry’s unethical dealings, and this GirlsDoPorn story is just one more added to the list.

Courtney Trouble, a performer, had this to say about working in porn:

“As a vice industry, [porn] can attract people who just want to be part of the fantasy lifestyle of partying and sex. Stigma against porn…is what makes men like this think they can get away with exploiting struggling women or established professionals.”

RelatedThe Porn Industry’s Secrets: Not All Porn Is Consensual

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But even if the stigma against porn and its performers didn’t exist, there would still be sex trafficking and exploitation.

In the case of GirlsDoPorn, the company’s scheme is not only harmful to many women but it also feeds an entitled porn fantasy of young women who normally would never be in a porn film resorting to performing to pay for student loans but need some convincing (read: coercion) to play along.

In writing about this case, Samantha Cole described the genre as “a fantasy that plays on coercion, and a real-life version of the ‘casting couch’ porn trope, which blurs the line between reality and fiction”—and sex trafficking, we may add.

There is little or no thought of how a young woman feels in that situation—and worse, to consumers, it is more exciting because of how tricked, betrayed, and violated she feels afterward. It remains to be seen whether MindGeek will be held responsible for all of the damage their business practices has inflicted on these exploited women.

Read our exclusive interviews with one Jane Doe who told us what it was like to be trafficked by GirlsDoPorn and how it has affected her life for years afterward.

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