Was One Man Responsible for Pornhub Removing Millions of Videos?

Credit card CEOs can get a lot done, it turns out

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What was behind a substantial number of changes to Pornhub this winter?
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

Late last year, a report in The New York Times asked a series of unsettling questions about the videos posted on Pornhub — and whether or not a substantial number of them were produced or uploaded without the consent of the participants. It also sparked a larger debate about the ethics of how porn is produced. Now, a new report looks back to the fallout from the Times report and documents how one very influential figure may have reshaped Pornhub’s policies.

At The Daily Beast, Corbin Bolies discussed the impact of a text from Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman on Pornhub. Like many people, Ackman was shocked when he read the Times report. Unlike many people, though, Ackman has the ability to text Ajay Banga. Banga is the CEO of MasterCard; after Ackman read the Times article, he reached out to Banga and suggested MasterCard take action.

And take action they did: MasterCard and Visa both nixed the ability of Pornhub customers to use their credit cards on the site. This, in turn, sparked rapid change — namely, the removal of 10 million videos from Pornhub within the span of 24 hours.

Writing at Institutional Investor, Michelle Celarier offers more details on Ackman’s actions, including the fact that Ackman first contacted Bradley Myles, who had once served as the CEO of the anti-human-trafficking organization Polaris. For Ackman, his response was intended to be a statement in favor of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, which has been on the rise in recent years. As text messages go, this one certainly had an impact.

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