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Pornhub continues its crackdown on safety with biometric technology

The adult site has announced a number of new measures to tackle non-consensual content

As part of its ongoing crackdown on non-consensual content, Pornhub has announced a number of new safety measures to protect its users and creators. One notable feature is the addition of biometric technology, which the adult site will use to verify those who want to upload videos.

Pornhub first announced that it would ban video uploads from unverified users in December, following a New York Times investigation which detailed the prevalence of non-consensual content on the platform. At the time, Pornhub also said it would block people from downloading content.

In a statement shared this week (February 2), the adult site – which is owned by MindGeek – said its new “comprehensive measures for verification, moderation, and detection will ensure Pornhub is the safest platform online, and at the forefront of combating and eradicating illegal content”.

Those who want to join Pornhub’s verified Model Program must now confirm their identity with Yoti – a digital identity verification solution – by providing a current photo and government-approved ID. Yoti will then check the documents using biometric technology – a service that identifies someone by an aspect of their biology, e.g. fingerprint or facial recognition.

Some performers have raised concerns about how this method of verification would impact trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary creators. Writing on Twitter, adult performer Dylan Thomas said: “Progress is good, however, as a trans person I'm concerned by ‘using secure biometric tech’ for how trans/gnc/enby users’ UX whose govt IDs may not match and what that may look like. We’re often an afterthought in verification UXD.”

Responding to Thomas’ query, Yoti said: “We partnered with Sparkle (a transgender charity) a couple of years back to learn some of the challenges faced and how we could help.” In an article about the partnership, Yoti said it was “researching identity issues that are affecting the transgender community, and working to try overcome these challenges”. TBC what the outcome of that research was. Thomas has asked the company to expand.

Other safety measures include blocking downloads so content that has been removed from the platform won’t be able to return (paid downloads from consenting verified users can still go ahead), as well as an expansion of Pornhub’s moderation protocols, including adding to the list of banned keywords and using technology to detect illegal images, with a focus on child exploitation.

Pornhub has also launched a ‘Trusted Flagger Program’, empowering non-profit partners to alert the site to “content they think may violate the Terms of Service”. Alongside this, Pornhub has announced new partnerships with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, as well as The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection organisation that runs Stop It Now! UK and Ireland.

Following the NYT exposé, a number of credit card companies, including Mastercard, Visa, and Discover, cut ties with Pornhub, blocking their customers from making purchases on the website. Speaking to Dazed, sex workers said the move threatened their only source of income. One sex worker, @loserlexx, said blocking payments “does nothing to help victims, it only hurts legal sex workers”.

Those in the industry were also critical of Pornhub’s subsequent moderation changes, which often resulted in verified content being removed. “I’ve personally lost over 20 million views on videos that are perfectly compliant with the Terms of Service,” @loserlexx continued. “When I email Pornhub about this, they put my videos back up, but they’re eventually flagged and disabled again, and the cycle repeats.”

Many sex workers have questioned the motivation behind the NYT investigation, which relied on the Traffickinghub campaign as a prominent source. The campaign was started by Laila Mickelwait, the founder of a Christian organisation called Exodus Cry. On its website, Exodus Cry refers to the sex industry as the “sexual exploitation industry”, and suggests that everyone who works in it is being exploited, including those who are “seduced by the deceptive ‘empowerment’ narrative in our culture”.

Read Dazed’s full investigation into how Pornhub’s video purge is hurting sex workers here.