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Christian organisations are petitioning for Pornhub to be shut down

The Traffickinghub campaign is protesting the recent spate of sex trafficking and child rape films hosted on the site

A petition created by the founder of a Christian organisation is calling for the closure of adult website Pornhub, and has amassed nearly 400,000 signatures, as people protest the recent spate of sex trafficking and child rape films found to be hosted on the site.

The Traffickinghub campaign, started by Exodus Cry founder Laila Mickelwait, is urging for Pornhub’s executives to be held accountable “for aiding trafficking”. Mickelwait asserts that her non-profit is “not about being anti-porn, but rather putting an end to the trafficking and sexual abuse of children” – though the organisation’s website refers to the commercial sex industry as an “evil”. 

Mickelwait’s Change.org petition cites a number of recent cases where sexual abuse videos were uploaded to Pornhub, including the story of a missing 15-year-old girl who was found after 58 videos of her rape were discovered on Pornhub. She also references a case in which Girls Do Porn owner Michael Pratt allegedly “deceived and coerced” 22 women into performing sex acts on film that were subsequently uploaded to Pornhub. After suing Girls Do Porn – which used to have an official channel on Pornhub – the women won a $12.7 million lawsuit (£9.7 million) against the company. Pratt and his co-conspirators were also accused of producing child rape and sexual abuse content, as well as the trafficking of a minor.

Writing on Twitter, Mickelwait said: “The Girls Do Porn sex trafficking ring posted its crime scene videos to Pornhub for eight years, and they were viewed millions of times. Pornhub profited off the exploitation and continued to even after the operation was brought to light.”

An investigation by The Times in November 2019 found that Pornhub is “flooded with illegal content”, including “secretly filmed creepshots of schoolgirls and clips of men performing sex acts in front of teenagers on buses”. The newspaper also alleges that Pornhub has hosted indecent images of children as young as three years old. The adult site reportedly claims to ban content showing under 18s, but The Times found offending videos with over 350,000 views which had been hosted for over three years.

Speaking to 10 daily last month, Mickelwait says the Internet Watch Foundation “investigated and confirmed over 100 cases of children being sexually abused on Pornhub”, adding that “child sexual abuse is rampant on the website because they allow child abusers, traffickers, and rapists to upload content instantly and anonymously”.

Mickelwait addresses this easy upload process on her petition, writing: “All that is needed to upload pornography onto Pornhub is an email address. It took me under 10 minutes to create a user account and upload blank test content to the site, which went live instantly.” She goes on to explain that she would have been able to get Pornhub-verified by simply sending a photo of herself holding a piece of paper with her username written on it.

This quick verification has been used in trafficking cases exposed on the site. As Mickelwait reveals: “Pornhub’s official Twitter account admitted that they ‘verified’ the 15-year-old girl who was trafficked and raped in 58 videos that were uploaded to the site. Shortly after realising they admitted complicity, they deleted the tweet.” According to Traffickinghub’s petition, “teen” has been a top 10 search term on Pornhub for the last six years, but the site “has no reliable system in place to verify that those in the videos it hosts are not trafficked children being raped on film”.

On International Women’s Day yesterday (March 8), protesters gathered outside Pornhub’s offices in Montreal, just days after the US announced legislation that would hold tech companies accountable when they fail to police illegal content on their sites. In November last year, a New York Times investigation found that many companies knew about abuse content on their sites but failed to take action, despite having the tools to do so.

Speaking to The Guardian, Pornhub owner Mindgeek said: “Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting non-consensual content and under-age material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate.”

Also marking IWD, posters calling for the decriminalisation of sex work appeared on the London Underground yesterday. The adhacking campaign was part of a number of activities in the city, including a sex workers’ strike and protest. Addressing how the criminalisation of the industry impacts the safety of sex workers, Frankie Miren, an activist with the English Collective of Prostitutes said: “Working together indoors is illegal, as is soliciting. Sex workers say being forced to work alone, in isolated areas, makes them more vulnerable to abuse.”

In a monumental ruling on Friday (March 6), a London stripper made history by achieving legal recognition as a worker. Writing for The Independent, #decrimnow activist Lydia Caradonna said: “The judgement sets a groundbreaking precedent for the idea that club owners are obliged to actually afford their dancers basic labour rights.”