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Explained: In Pornhub pulling down 10 million videos, here are the implications for similar sites

Pornhub banned unverified uploaders from posting new content and eliminated downloads in what it calls the “most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history”.

Written by Nandagopal Rajan , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: January 1, 2021 12:47:05 pm
Pornhub, Pornhub videos, Pornhub child abuse, Pornhub Mastercard payment, Pornhub payment, Pornhub membership, Pornhub visa, Paypal, Indian ExpressPornhub is the world’s most popular porn site.

Pornhub, the world’s most popular porn site, this week pulled down over 10 million videos uploaded by unverified users after backlash following a New York Times article that said the site had too many videos of children being exploited and abused.

The red flag

The trouble for Canada-based Pornhub, also the tenth most popular site online (it is banned in India) as per SimilarWeb.com, started when Columnist Nicholas Kristof, in the piece titled ‘The Children of Pornhub’, wrote: “Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags.” The piece underlined how the videos that depict child abuse and non-consensual violence, would stay on even if Pornhub removed from the site as it allowed users to download the videos directly. There were also cases like that of a 15-year-old missing girl from Florida, whose mother founder over 50 videos of her on the site.

Within a week, credit card companies MasterCard and Visa both decided to stop transactions on the site and initiated probes into their relations with Mindgeek, the parent company of Pornhub. In a statement, MasterCard said its investigations had “confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site” while Visa said it was instructing financial institutions “to suspend processing of payments through the Visa network”. Now, Pornhub is able to accept only Bitcoin payments. There are signs that the financial impact will not end there as the credit card sites are now investigating ties with other adult sites too. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

The response

Pornhub banned unverified uploaders from posting new content and eliminated downloads in what it calls the “most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history”. It also removed all content uploaded by these unverified users, hoping it had “demonstrated our dedication to leading by example”.

Pornhub had over the years modelled itself on YouTube and allowed anyone to upload content, and monetise it. As its ‘Pornhub Community’ section boomed with videos from all over the world, the site too profited from ads. Pornhub clocked over 3.3 billion visits in November 2020, as per SimilarWeb.com.

In a blogpost this week, Pornhub also claimed that “leading non-profit organisations and advocacy groups acknowledge” its efforts at combating illegal content have been “effective”. It claimed that while Facebook self-reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material over the past three years, independent, third-party Internet Watch Foundation reported just 118 incidents on Pornhub. “That is still 118 too many, which is why we are committed to taking every necessary action,” the blogpost said.

The blog also claimed that Pornhub was “being targeted” by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Exodus Cry/TraffickingHub “dedicated to abolishing pornography, banning material they claim is obscene, and shutting down commercial sex work”.

The implications

With PornHub switching off a majority of its content it is likely that the site will see a drastic fall in visitors too. There is also going to be a disproportionate fall in revenue as new users will not be able to purchase subscriptions on the site anymore with the payment options being removed by credit card companies. This also means that the verified users on PornHub, often performers who make their livelihood by posting explicit videos on the site, will find their income streams cut to just advertising revenue.

The impact on the porn industry will also be significant given that if Pornhub has content that is exploiting children and showing revenge porn, then it is more than likely that all other sites have such content. As credit card companies look at their links with all such sites, it could choke the revenue streams of these websites and make some of them unviable. What needs to be seen is whether this ends up being the start of something big.

Interestingly, Mindgeek, earlier called Manwin, has a near monopoly on the online pornography space and own many of the top adult sites like RedTube and YouPorn along with PornHub and a host of sites like RealityKings that also produces the content. In 2015, the company had recorded a revenue of $460 million and 2020 was clearly the best year ever for anything online. The ownership pattern could also come in for scrutiny in the present circumstances especially when anti-trust probes are on against other big tech firms too.

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