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Their Private Photos Were Shared Non-consensually to Pornhub, and Now These Women are Fighting Back

By September 13, 2019 No Comments
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Kate Isaacs never had any intention of campaigning to change the UK’s revenge porn laws, but after her friend’s iCloud account was hacked and videos and images of her were uploaded to Pornhub—one of the world’s largest free porn sites—Isaacs couldn’t stay silent.

“I think it’s one of those things that when you start learning about it, you can’t not do something,” Isaacs said in an exclusive interview with Fight the New Drug.

As Isaacs learned, England’s 2015 revenge porn law makes it illegal for individuals, such as an ex-partner, to share sexual media of another person without their consent. However, the law does not extend to companies, like all of the free porn tube sites that host the content.

Related: Study Reveals Revenge Porn Victims Suffer Similar Trauma As Sexual Assault Victims

“There is nothing in the law about registered porn companies, even though they are based in the UK,” Issacs said. “Porn websites are a tool for perpetrators to share images very quickly and companies are profiting from it.”

After discovering this gap in the UK law, Isaacs began a movement called #NotYourPorn with the aim of fighting the stigma of revenge porn victims and holding porn sites accountable. She said the goal is to regulate the commercialized porn industry and put legislation in place to make it illegal to profit from and host revenge porn.

Normalizing Abuse Isnt Normal

What’s in a name

Revenge porn refers to sexually explicit images and videos of a person taken consensually but shared online without consent. Recently, victims have been speaking out about their dissatisfaction with the term, pointing out that revenge is when you are hurt by another in return for something you did. It implies the victim must have done something to deserve their private photos and videos being shared with the online world.

Rebekah Wells, founder of Women Against Revenge Porn, said this about the term:

“It has been called ‘revenge porn,’ ‘involuntary pornography,’ and ‘nonconsensual pornography.’ But using these terms is like calling rape ‘involuntary sex.’ It simply doesn’t reflect the emotional, psychological, and physical costs. Revenge porn is cyber rape, and we should call it as such.”

Related: Revenge Porn: Is It A New Form Of Digital Sex Slavery?

While the #NotYourPorn movement focuses on the UK’s revenge porn law including updating the language, Isaacs is hopeful the legislation will have a trickle-down impact to other non-consensual images. Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) is the umbrella term that includes cyber rape, upskirting, deepfakes, and secret filming. All are popular genres on massive, free porn sites that receive billions of site visits every year.

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Cyber rape on porn websites

Recent research found that 1 in 10 people in the UK has had explicit pictures or videos of themselves shared without their consent, and the trauma that follows can resemble that of what sexual abuse survivors face.

In response, the free tube sites have done nothing and continue with business as usual.

Corey Price, VP of Pornhub, told HuffPost UK: “Pornhub strongly condemns non-consensual content, including revenge porn. Revenge porn content that is uploaded to Pornhub directly violates our Terms of Service and is removed as soon as we are made aware of it.”

Related: AI Tools Are Making It Possible To Create Fake Porn Videos Of Almost Anyone

But Carrie Goldberg, a lawyer known for standing up for victims of online harassment and abuse, said, “Until terms and conditions are enforceable in court, I don’t give a s— what these companies say are in them.”

The other problem with Pornhub’s statement is where the responsibility resides. Currently, the burden is on the user to ensure the content they upload is consensual, but if it’s revenge porn, it’s often up to the victim to have their images removed.

After reaching out to Pornhub, the site removed Isaacs’ friend’s original video, but because of the download function on tube sites, copies of the same video are continuously reuploaded. Isaacs says there are very basic things sites could do to break the cycle.

“There are so many different algorithms and processes that [Pornhub] could borrow from similar models like YouTube, but the fact that they are not invested in that is very telling.”

Related: WATCH: This Heartbreaking Video Shows What Being A Revenge Porn Victim Is Like

It is also telling the way these sites encourage consumers to view more and more revenge porn with related searches and labels like “stolen Snapchat teen videos” or “leaked sex tape.”

Isaacs pointed out that sometimes videos are faked to appear like revenge porn, but she said that makes the problem worse.

“Distinguishing between what is real and what is fake (or consensually-made and consensually-uploaded but filmed to appear like revenge porn) is so difficult. By allowing this sort of genre, even if it is a simulation, actually works in hiding the videos that are real.”

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 Spreading the word

#NotYourPorn is faced with a fact that we know and understand pretty well ourselves: Not many people want to consider the ways people are abused through porn or talk about how the porn industry profits from privacy violations.

While we are a non-legislative organization, we give visibility to global movements like #NotYourPorn because we are passionate about highlighting the seriousness of image-based sexual abuse.

Related: 7 Things You Can Do If You’re A Victim Of Deepfakes Or Revenge Porn

“I didn’t have anything against the porn industry before I started this,” Kate Isaacs said, while admitting she wasn’t a particular fan of the content. Since starting the campaign, she has spoken with victims and heard their stories. She mentioned one story of a 21-year-old woman whose on-off boyfriend sent a sexually explicit video of her to a friend and threatened to send it to her family. Last year, she jumped to her death from her apartment window in Paddington.

“And I just think,” Isaacs said, “if this happens to one more person, and I haven’t done anything—knowing what I know—could I live with myself? I think the answer to that is a strong, solid no.”

If you are a victim of revenge porn, there are steps you can take to reclaim your life and images. Click here for suggestions on where to start.

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