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Why Pornhub’s Account Verification Process Might Not Stop the Spread of Nonconsensual Content

While requiring account verification to upload videos to Pornhub cracks down on exploitative content, it is not a bulletproof solution because it still doesn’t ensure that videos are exploitation-free.

By January 26, 2022No Comments

In early December 2020, porn site giant Pornhub deleted almost 9 million videos, or about 65% of the total videos, from their website.


Because Nicholas Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, had just published a deeply alarming exposé on Pornhub in The New York Times calling out the company for allowing and profiting off of image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) and child sexual abuse material (CSAM).

In addition to deleting the majority of their videos, Pornhub announced three major policy changes they said would prevent the sharing and continuous circulation of nonconsensual images and videos.

The policy changes included:

  • Only allowing uploads from verified users, not everyone as before
  • No longer providing an option to download existing videos on the platform
  • Greatly improving moderation, and a semblance of a larger moderation team

More recently, the adult site seemed to double down on its previous pledges to do better. Pornhub claimed in an emailed statement to global, multi-platform media and entertainment company Mashable that the Pornhub has “implemented safety and security measures that set the standard for compliance programs in the tech and social media industries.”

Related: How The Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content And Abuse

Pornhub also said that they implemented “uploader verification” as a key policy “in combating unwanted content” to ensure that Pornhub is “at the forefront of safety in not just the adult content industry, but on the internet as a whole.”

As of early 2022, it’s been a little over a year since Pornhub’s original announcement and a couple of months since Mashable released the above statements from Pornhub.

But even though they stated a commitment to do better, it’s clear that so much hinges on Pornhub’s verification process inhibiting the unfettered upload of exploitative and nonconsensual content.

Let’s dive in to see whether Pornhub’s verification process is as safe as the site is claiming.

Pornhub’s verification process

Getting verified on Pornhub is a multi-step process that requires applying to the Pornhub’s Model Program, which gives content posters access to their earnings from ad revenue, among additional paths to monetization.

After application, the first step is creating a free Pornhub account. This is easier than making a social media account—applicants provide an email address, username, and password. Then they verify their email via a link sent to the address.

After verifying their email, they move on to the second step, which includes taking a photo of their ID and performing a live face scan through a service called Yoti. According to Pornhub, Yoti is “the leading digital identity verification solution.”

Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking

On Yoti, the applicant will select their country and click “Add Photo.” Then, they’ll select the type of ID they want to provide (choices will vary based on the country selected)—applicants will need to upload photos of the front and back of their ID (except if they are using a passport). If the photos are too blurry, Yoti may reject the photos, but it will allow applicants to retake them.

Once an applicant’s ID photo has been permitted, Yoti will perform the live face scan. The applicant’s room will need to have good lighting and their camera will need to be at eye level. After clicking “I’m Ready,” the applicant will be scanned.

Finally, after uploading ID photos and completing the face scan, the applicant will be able to submit their application for verification on Pornhub’s site. The form will ask the applicant for their name, address, a preferred method of payment, and whether they’ll perform other services like creating custom videos. Applicants have two weeks to complete this process once they’ve started or else it expires. Apparently, that isn’t much of a problem considering the application only takes a few minutes.

Related: Pornhub’s 2021 Annual Report Reveals This Year’s Most-Watched Porn Categories

Applications are reviewed within 48 hours, and the applicant will receive either an approval or a notice that their application to verify their account requires further attention.

Seems pretty self-explanatory and solid, right?

Well, while requiring account verification to upload videos to Pornhub definitely is a step to crack down on exploitative content, it is not a bulletproof solution because it still doesn’t ensure that videos are exploitation-free.

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Clear loopholes in Pornhub’s verification process

One big thing to note: The verification process only verifies the account holder.

While in some cases the account holder may be the person in the video being posted, what happens in the other cases where the account holder isn’t in the video being posted? What about cases of a secondary person being depicted in content uploaded to a verified account?

That person could easily be someone who is being exploited and unaware of the video’s sharing—and even if they are aware of it, their recourse would be to complain to Pornhub’s moderator team. Sure, that may lead the account holder to get in trouble, but that video was already posted, and potentially shared and recorded by other users, leaving the victim vulnerable to revictimization again and again.

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

There are cases of exactly this scenario happening, where videos of trafficked and underage trafficked individuals were uploaded to verified Pornhub accounts on Pornhub. Take this story of an underage IBSA victim, for example.

An 18-year-old woman went to investigators about a video of her as a minor on the site. The account that uploaded the video was not created by the woman, but the man who had been involved in the sex act with her when she was a minor.

While the man, Michael Williams, faces charges of producing porn with a minor and possession of obscene material, this example is definitive proof that Pornhub’s verification process cannot prevent all cases of exploitation.

There are other cases of videos of trafficked individuals being uploaded to verified Pornhub accounts, including to the notorious verified “GirlsDoPorn” account that was an official partner with Pornhub. Still, GirlsDoPorn reportedly sex trafficked hundreds of women and uploaded videos of their exploitation to Pornhub.

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

Until late 2019, NBC reports that Pornhub’s parent company’s official business partnership with GirlsDoPorn continued even through years of reports of nonconsensual content and videos of coerced and trafficked individuals being featured in uploaded videos by the porn company. Their official partnership only ended because GirlsDoPorn ceased to exist amid a Department of Justice sex trafficking investigation.

And still, remember that even mainstream porn performers can be trafficked without knowing it.


Why this matters

Pornhub’s business model encourages (now verified) users to uploaded endless amounts of content, and then Pornhub sells ads that appear on pages alongside that content.

They claim to care deeply about victims of nonconsensual imagery and profess a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse material, but then have reportedly knowingly or unknowingly hosted ads next to those videos, directly profiting from that material.

Additionally, each victim of Pornhub may experience a wide array of harmful repercussions due to their IBSA and/or CSAM. They may suffer through stalking or death threats, bullying or ostracization from their social network, drop out or struggle through school, and future careers are at risk because of explicit videos that show up when a potential employer searches their name.

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

These victims may also face devastating mental health impacts such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder. Some victims even attempt suicide.

While Pornhub’s verification process may seem like a bulletproof fix to the reported rampant issue of exploitation and nonconsensual content on the platform, there are clear loopholes. Is watching worth it?

To learn more about how the porn industry profits from nonconsensual content and image-based abuse, click here.