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Pornhub finally takes a throbbing hard stance against illegal content

Getting off on long-overdue content moderation.

pornhub logo and blurred background
Image: KnowTechie

We’ve all had a tough 2020. It’s been a wild year, but it’s also been a year that left us plenty of time to start righting some wrongs. Pornhub, the porn site you visit the second after your hot cousin leaves the family barbeque, has been under the microscope this year, rightfully so.

While it continues to grow as the porn site you think of when you think of porn, that brings along with it more scrutiny of its business practices. The gist is that Pornhub hasn’t done nearly enough to justify ignoring the things it’s been ignoring, and mainstream viewers are starting to take notice. Its internal processes have not been able to escape under the cover of its cute marketing campaigns.

When dutifully writing about one of its cheeky marketing campaigns earlier this year, I couldn’t just ignore the swelling sea of discontent, disgust, and distrust surrounding Pornhub, as I wrote:

While Pornhub is launching more premium services to lure in users, the porn industry as a whole is currently facing a reckoning, which is on brand for 2020. Rightfully so, Pornhub and its family of tube sites are on the firing line. To this end, Pornhub has responded by removing videos from offending producers, but that’s not enough.

With a continued effort to increase its premium user base through initiatives like shared premium accounts, Pornhub should take this opportunity to lock down its tube sites and only allow content to be uploaded by verified and vetted users. If Pornhub plans on continuing to entice and retain premium users — it’s time to clean up the site with a revamp of the verification process that only allows content from the creator(s) of said content.

In order to move forward, it’s time Pornhub and other tube sites reconcile with their spotty pasts of allowing stolen content on their sites and move forward with consented-upload content only.

It should be noted that I’m not the first to suggest such changes to the site, and certainly not the most recent

The most recent would be Nicolas Kristof, writing in The New York Times about Pornhub’s terrible history of allowing illegal content, from non-consensual material to child sexual abuse material (CSAM). To its credit, Pornhub never encouraged this material and did the bare minimum of making sure it didn’t hit the platform. That just wasn’t enough.

Last year Paypal pulled its services from Pornhub, still not enough. After the NYT piece, Visa and Mastercard stated they would each begin an independent investigation into Pornhub’s practices to determine if they’d be pulling services. While Pornhub doesn’t have the daily active user number of a social network like Twitter or Facebook (both with much more illegal content than Pornhub on a daily reported basis), hitting it in the wallet prompted action.

So, yesterday, Pornhub finally announced some long-overdue changes to the site and its procedures that will hopefully change its current trajectory of becoming a pariah of the porn industry. These changes will cascade down through all of Mindgeek’s (ownership company) porn sites, including YouPorn and those other ones I can’t remember the name of. Josiah knows.

Kristof is rightfully skeptical, as we’ll see if these changes are implemented correctly and consistently. Pornhub claims to have been working on this list since April, recently partnering with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and promising to release a transparency report at some point next year.

The link to report violations on Pornhub is going to be hot as it continues to grab attention for this, rather than the odd fetish of Stepmom porn.

Here are the seven policy changes outlined by Pornhub:

  • Verified uploaders only: This is a huge one. This will hopefully eliminate so much of the illegal and stolen content on the site. Only content partners and those within the Model Program will be able to upload for now. Next year Pornhub will implement a verification process for users.
  • Banning downloads: No idea why this existed in the first place. YouTube has been plenty successful without allowing downloads. Fingerprinting tech will disallow previously downloaded videos to return.
  • Expanded moderation: Adding new moderation teams, escalations, and implementing further automated detection technologies including YouTube’s CSAI Match, Google’s Content Safety API, and Microsoft’s PhotoDNA.
  • Trusted flagger program: Partners like Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Internet Watch Foundation (UK), Stopline (Austria), and Child Focus (Belgium) to name a few, will be able to flag content that they believe should be removed.
  • NCMEC Partnership: Already done. As mentioned, Pornhub partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to create transparency reports on CSAM incidents.
  • Transparency Report: Like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms, Pornhub will release a transparency report annually, the only porn site to promise to do so.
  • Independent Review: In April, Pornhub hired a law firm to review its content compliance function. That will continue.

These changes are long overdue. Turning a blind eye to the shitty things humans do to each other to turn a buck just isn’t going to cut it anymore, we’re watching. Anyone with a slight tinge of morality must have an issue with scrolling through Pornhub while so much illegal content rests just beyond the search bar. While this won’t stamp out the behavior, it’ll at least de-platform it, and hopefully help Pornhub’s partners like NCMEC track down and hold accountable those who create illegal content.

Pornhub should be watched very carefully in the near future, and I’m not talking about the three minutes a day it takes you to get off after spending 40 minutes searching for the right video. If it hopes to continue an existence that doesn’t put it in front of a Senate sub-committee next to Facebook, it’ll want to maintain a harsher stance against illegal content. This is a good start, now let’s see it implemented.

What do you think? Glad to see Pornhub taking these steps or is it not enough? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A tech writer on the internet for over 15 years for outlets such as Forbes, Wired, TNW, and others, Curtis is exhausted, burnt out and happy to just write buying guides and the occasional review for KnowTechie, the best tech blog your mom never told you about. Ephemeral existence for ephemeral times. Please send pitches and grainy pictures of the inside of your elbow to kevin@knowtechie.com

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