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14 Real Confessions from Porn Site Content Moderators

What are moderators' experiences working for porn sites that rely on user-uploaded content? Here are 14 quotes from real porn moderators talking about their jobs.

Trigger warning: This article contains disturbing descriptions of abuse and violence. Reader discretion is advised.

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of porn in the world. Like, a lot.

In fact, one popular porn site estimated that in 2019, 12,500 gigabytes of porn were uploaded to the site every minute—enough to fill the memories of every smartphone in the world.Pornhub Insights. (2019). The 2019 year in review. Retrieved from https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2019-year-in-reviewCopy  And that’s just one site.

So with a steady stream of porn being uploaded to sites across the globe at any given moment, how do porn companies guarantee they’re not hosting illegal content? Short answer: they can’t.

Related: OnlyFans Reportedly has Lax Moderation and Underage Content, BBC Investigation Finds

Content moderation

Porn sites often hire content moderators who review content to determine whether or not it should be removed from the site. These content moderation teams, however, are often very small and given very little support.

One popular porn site, for example, relies on a team of volunteers—some of whom are self-described porn addicts—whose entire moderation training comes from a 480-word “manual” and who are told to only remove content that they’re 100% sure is illegal.Meineck, S., & Alfering, Y. (2020). We went undercover in xHamster's unpaid content moderation team. Vice. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCopy 

Live Presentations

According to one content moderator for MindGeek, the porn giant employs an estimated 80 content moderators across all its sites.Kristof, N. (2020). The children of Pornhub. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/opinion/sunday/pornhub-rape-trafficking.htmlCopy  Keep in mind, that this is the same company that claimed its moderators manually review every single video upon upload, yet also claimed around the same time that one of its sites received 169 years’ worth of new content in one yearPornhub. (2020). Answers to community questions. Retrieved from https://www.pornhub.com/blog/10012Copy Pornhub Insights. (2019). The 2019 year in review. Retrieved from https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2019-year-in-reviewCopy —that would make it literally impossible for content moderators to properly review all new content on one site alone, let alone respond quickly and appropriately to any reports of abusive content already uploaded to all of MindGeek’s platforms.

Regardless, these minimally trained and shockingly small content moderation teams clearly do very little to rid these sites of illegal content.

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

But what about the content moderators themselves? What are their experiences working for porn sites that rely on user-uploaded content?

Here are 14 quotes from real porn site content moderators talking about their jobs.

1. “New content would come in (filmed/shot) daily and it needed to be edited/published ASAP. It didn’t matter what the talent looked like. Hot, drugged out of their gords, crying, happy, questionable age, raped, didn’t matter. The company paid for it and it all had to be used. If I objected to questionable material, I was told to ignore it and do my job.”https://fightthenewdrug.org/reddit-post-about-the-porn-industry-is-disturbing/Copy 

2. “Our job was to find weird excuses to keep videos on our sites.”https://www.businessinsider.com/inside-pornhub-parent-company-mindgeeks-moderation-process-2020-12Copy 

3. “The manual tells you what is not allowed, so if it’s not mentioned in the manual you should assume that it is OK.”https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCopy 

4. “At one point we were debating what creatures were OK to be stepped on. Crickets, insects, and crawfish were OK, but not goldfish, because people have goldfish as pets.”https://www.businessinsider.com/inside-pornhub-parent-company-mindgeeks-moderation-process-2020-12Copy 

5. “We joked that in a month we’d see more porn than someone would see in a lifetime. I talked about that with people I was working with—how doing this work affected them in their personal lives. Some people had a lack of sex drive, some people said it didn’t affect them, and some people said it increased their sex drive.”https://www.businessinsider.com/inside-pornhub-parent-company-mindgeeks-moderation-process-2020-12Copy 

6. “In one company we had two ladies whose entire job, eight hours a day, was to view, log, and store all the IDs that came in. No, I’m not joking. Five days a week, eight hours a day, they were viewing and logging ALL the IDs from new talent that would come in. That’s how much porn was shot and how much of it was from new talent. It consisted of images of the model holding their IDs next to their faces… Four times out of 10, the model has their thumb over their date of birth.”https://fightthenewdrug.org/reddit-post-about-the-porn-industry-is-disturbing/Copy 

7. “I saw a lot of homemade rape, child porn, borderline snuff, guys injecting their genitals with stuff, drug use, etc. Oh, and actual incest. Not like the ‘Son, I’m stuck in the washing machine!’ incest, but actual ‘this is my sister and she’s going to suck my d—’ or moms touching their sons, dads having sex with their sons, daughters, etc.”https://fightthenewdrug.org/reddit-post-about-the-porn-industry-is-disturbing/Copy 

Related: How the Porn Industry Profits From Nonconsensual Content and Abuse

8. “The goal for a content moderator is to let as much content as possible go through… The job in itself is soul-destroying.”https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/04/opinion/sunday/pornhub-rape-trafficking.htmlCopy 

9. “After a couple months, my bosses caught on that I was takedown-happy: I got scolded for pulling down a celebrity sex tape that had gotten millions of views. At that point, I was told to pay closer attention to the content and consult with management before pulling down popular videos.”https://www.theverge.com/c/22925906/pornhub-mindgeek-content-moderationCopy 

10. “Hidden cam, voyeur, upskirt, all OK unless there is some other violation.”https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCopy 

11. “Tougher to deal with were videos uploaded by verified [MindGeek] partners and flagged for review by users showing young women who looked to be of questionable age… As far as I remember, I wasn’t allowed to remove videos from partners.”https://www.theverge.com/c/22925906/pornhub-mindgeek-content-moderationCopy 

12. “One clip that really bothered me was described as a prostitute having sex with her pimp… By comparison, this video was tame. But it raised so many questions: Can a sex worker consent to sex with her exploiting pimp? Were they really even pimp-and-hoe, like the description said they were? Maybe they were a couple, role-playing? There was no way to know.”https://www.theverge.com/c/22925906/pornhub-mindgeek-content-moderationCopy  

13. From one company’s content moderation manual: “Do not remove any content if you’re not 100 percent sure that it’s illegal to be here.”https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCopy 

14. “I have asked for a brand new, updated, exhaustive manual a whole bunch of times… no answer from any admin.”https://www.vice.com/en/article/akdzdp/inside-xhamsters-unpaid-content-moderation-teamCopy 

Store - Love

How can consumers know what they’re watching?

So, how can you know whether the porn you’re watching is truly consensual? Well, the unfortunate truth is that in the porn industry, there is no guarantee. It is virtually impossible to know whether any particular content is consensual, ethical, or even legal.

Related: xHamster Reportedly Uses an Unpaid, Untrained, Volunteer Team to Moderate Content

At the end of the day, is it worth it? Is it worth contributing to the demand that keeps afloat an industry that profits from illegal, nonconsensual, and abusive content? Is it worth the possibility of contributing to someone’s exploitation or re-traumatization?

For the sake of victims, we say it’s time to stop the demand.

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