A civil suit filed in the USA against Pornhub is creating new trouble for the adult entertainment giant MindGeek. 34 plaintiffs joined the suit basically accusing Pornhub of being a »criminal enterprise«, a charge the world’s biggest online platform and streaming site for adult content vehemently denies.
34 women are suing the porn company MindGeek claiming the group’s flagship Pornhub published material depicting them against their will in sexual situations. The suit filed mid-June seems to mix all kinds of claims against the company basically making it responsible for the behavior of uploaders sharing their content on the platform as none of the videos in question were posted or published by Pornhub itself.
While the claims sound bad at first sight it would be wise for international media to look closely as to what Pornhub might have done wrong here. As none of the content is allowed on Pornhub and uploaders of such content violate their agreement with the streaming site, it is very likely that at the core of the case there might not be much more to the claims than the fact that Pornhub didn’t delete questionable content fast enough.
Now MindGeek has released a statement rejecting the basic premise of the suit. It said that it was working hard on »eradicating illegal content« and that the company has established »the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history.« MindGeek also vehemently rejects the offensive language used by the plaintiffs’ lawyers as »utterly absurd, completely reckless and categorically false«.
MindGeek stressed in its comment that it had »banned uploads from unverified users, eliminated downloads, expanded our moderation processes and partnered with dozens of nonprofit organizations around the world, steps that surpass those of any other major platform on the internet«.
The plaintiffs’ claims vary broadly and intermix revenge porn, cases of unclear or not given consent, underage porn as well as content depicting victims of sex trafficking or abuse. It goes without saying that these are all very different problems and to mix it all together gives the impression that it is basically an attack on the company’s reputation.
While content providers that serve as platforms for third-party content are generally protected in the US through Section 230, new legislation like FOSTA/SESTA created in the Trump era makes it possible to hold platforms liable when it comes to sex trafficking charges.
The suit directed against Pornhub adds to the troubles MindGeek is facing worldwide and might be seen as a warning sign for the whole industry as it might indicate that conservative politicians and religious groups might have found a route to attack pornography and the free expression of sexuality without having to use the dubious obscenity laws or a narrow view of feminism or bogus claims of public health problems stemming from porn consumption. None of these worked in the court of public opinion. The new approach might achieve different results though.
The protection of minors and the problem of sex trafficking are both subjects that could easily be used by lawmakers to justify bans making adult content invisible or even illegal. The industry faces therefore steeper challenges not only to its business models but also to freedom of speech, art and self-expression. As per usual adult entertainment is at the forefront of a cultural war that could easily be lost unless the industry finds solutions to effectively protect minors and victims of nonconsensual sex.