New York Times Questions Pornhub’s Alarming Rape-Video Trend

A new report points to numerous issues with the tech company

Pornhub Launches Pop Up Xmas Store In Milan
A general view of the 'Pornhub Christmas Store' on December 1, 2017 in Milan, Italy.
Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

According to a recent study, Pornhub is the third most influential tech company of the current century — putting them ahead of the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Apple. The company has a substantial trove of user data and an abundance of videos uploaded by their user base. And, based on a new exposé by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times, Pornhub also has a substantial problem with rape videos — one which prompts questions about the site’s own moderation policies and the degree to which other institutions, from tech companies to governments, are complicit.

“A great majority of the 6.8 million new videos posted on the site each year probably involve consenting adults, but many depict child abuse and nonconsensual violence,” Kristof writes. Through conversations with numerous women whose lives were affected by videos uploaded to the site, he offers an unsettling look at the worst aspects of the site.

In a statement provided to the Times, Pornhub defended their own policies. “Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating child sexual abuse material, and has instituted a comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community,” they said.

Kristof’s investigation points to one potential issue with this: namely, a dearth of content moderators. He quotes one source as saying that Mindgeek, Pornhub’s parent company, has roughly 80 moderators working on various Mindgeek sites. Controversies around content moderation are not new, though the situation Kristof describes here is a particularly horrific one.

In an article at OneZero focusing on the outrage zeroing in on Pornhub following Kristof’s piece, Will Oremus succinctly described the number of moderators in question as an example of Mindgeek “doing the bare minimum and hoping to get away with it.” Given the reaction to Kristof’s article so far, it seems unlikely that the bare minimum will continue to suffice.

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