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Timeline of Taking Down PornHub: Holding MindGeek Accountable

Porn isn’t harmless. The recent events involving the stepping down of PornHub’s CEO, Feras Antoon, and COO, David Tasillo, are the result of survivors of the porn industry’s efforts to prove just that. Over the past several years, survivors as well as non-governmental organizations and their followers, have put increasing pressure on the porn site monopoly, MindGeek. While the battle to take on such a large beast is anything but simple, survivors and allies have made significant progress in letting their voices finally be heard. A number of events have occurred since 2019 including class action lawsuits, investigations, exposure, and the cutting of ties by big-name payment processors. All of these maintain one overarching theme tying them together: holding the MindGeek monopoly accountable for its exploitation of women and children, and listening to survivors speak on why porn is anything but harmless.

In August 2019, 22 women won $13 million in a lawsuit against GirlsDoPorn, a subsidiary of the parent company MindGeek. A website that claimed to be operating as an “ethical” porn site. These women, roped into the GirlsDoPorn operation under a false pretense, were coerced into shooting porn scenes. Below is just one of their stories.

Backtrack 13 years ago to 2009, owners of GirlsDoPorn, Michael Pratt and Matthew Wolfe began posting false, fully-clothed modeling jobs on Craigslist. Now, Pratt is on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitive List, and Wolfe plead guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy associated with GirlsDoPorn.

Jane (pseudo name), is one of the dozen women who has been viciously harmed by GirlsDoPorn. Like many, she was coerced into flying across the country to California, where she was under the impression she was taking on an above-board modeling job. Jane had done fitness modeling, was a professional yoga instructor and was given the understanding that this job would be strictly a fitness modeling session. She had no interest in filming pornography or nudity of any kind. She states that she had never even sent a nude photo prior to this. Like many young women who are coerced into trafficking, she was paying for college herself. So, she thought this modeling job would be the same as many others.

While it may be easy to think of a Craigslist ad as shady, Jane mentions how the GirlsDoPorn pseudo, the cover company had everything down to a tee. It appeared as strictly professional in the fitness industry. She mentions everything from reference models, professional websites, and photographers, to a building of comradery via phone conversations. Looking back now, Jane addresses how these phone calls were not only to groom her to gain her trust but also clever on the trafficking operation’s part to mitigate any paper trail.

About 8-10 phone calls in, the employee on the line briefly mentions that the “company” also owns an adult film company, adult modeling, and bikini modeling, but that it was all tasteful and professional. Jane vehemently declined and the employee appeared to respect her decision but sent her a link for info in case she was interested. Jane also notes that this was tactful on Pratt and Wolfe’s part in that should an investigation ever arise, GirlsDoPorn can state that they advised the client that adult films were involved. However, Jane flew out to California knowing that participating in such films was an option but was under the impression the company knew and wholeheartedly respected that she had no interest in that side of the company. She quotes their statement, “No worries, it’s always an option if you change your mind while you’re out there, but just think about it.”

Upon arrival, she picked up an escalade with doors she couldn’t unlock. The only people she saw upon arrival were the few men that took her up to an apartment. The man took her purse and phone and locked them in a safe in which she was then asked to strip her clothes off. When she froze out of fear, and thus did not oblige with their ask, the men stripped her themselves. Not long after the men intimidated her into signing a contract. That night from 9 pm to 4 am she was repeatedly raped. At one point she tried to run out into the hotel, still naked but was pushed back into the scene by the man guarding the door. At that point, Jane had repeatedly stated that she wanted to be done with this all together in which the man then threatened that if she refused to continue all the content they had already filmed would be leaked online and sent to her parents. Throughout the night the threats became physical if she did not oblige. Jane was forced to re-film scenes until she appeared as though she was enjoying the sexual assault.

In addition to the overwhelming physical, mental, and emotional abuse the survivors endured, the videos they were forced to participate in were posted online, with each woman’s identifying information. This was after the company’s assurance that the content would never be posted online.

While porn portrays a narrative of women enjoying the sexual acts being done to them, the reality is far from that. In many instances, such as Jane’s, and the 39 other women who filed the lawsuit against GirlsDoPorn, the women have been quite literally beaten into submission. It is not uncommon for perpetrators to employ a combination of physical force, intimidation, emotional manipulation, and coercion. These are not acts of consent but of sex trafficking, which MindGeek and its subsidiaries knowingly profited from.

Unfortunately, Jane’s story is one of many. The 22 brave women who stood up against traffickers, Pratt and Wolfe, seem to be the catalyst in an increasing momentum to expose the porn industry for what it truly is: exploitation.

Here is what happened just the following year in late 2020:

  • On December 4th The New York Times published an article titled, “Children of Pornhub”

    • Nicholas Kristof, a prize-winning journalist lists a multitude of cases of unconsenting young women and girls whose naked images and videos were exposed online. The article details how many of them have dealt with suicide ideation and are struggling to simply survive. He poses the question, “Why does Canada allow this company {Pornhub} to profit off videos of exploitation and assault?”

  • On December 8th Pornhub removes the “download” button from its site

    • Kristof’s exposing article was the tip of the iceberg to initiate changes from Pornhub concerning its site operations, along with previous pressure from TraffickingHub and other NGO initiatives. Pornhub changed its business model to be in accordance with the four demands Kristof addressed in his article, including only allowing videos to be uploaded by verified users.

  • On December 14th Pornhub removes 10 million videos, 80% of its original content

    • To be in accordance with the verified user uploading rule, the site had to take down 10 million videos from unverified users. Many of which had been online for years. The site went from 13.5 million videos to 2.9 million.

  • On December 15th MindGeek was sued for $40 million by 40 women

    • This lawsuit is a related GirlsDoPorn case, in which the women filed against MindGeek for “conscious financial benefit and participation in GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture since 2009” (movieguide)

By 2021, the Canadian Parliament opened an investigation on Pornhub. This led to the following events:

  • On April 25th Survivors file a $500 million class action lawsuit against Pornhub and MindGeek

    • The plaintiffs are suing MindGeek for uploading pornographic videos online with their consent as well as child sexual abuse

  • On June 15 GirlsDoPorn trafficker, Ruben Andre Garcia is sentenced to 20 years of prison

    • Garcia was one of Jane’s direct traffickers, along with trafficking many other women. He was a recruiter, producer, and actor for GirlsDoPorn from 2013 to 2017. The trafficking operation grossed millions of dollars during this time off of the sexual exploitation of young women.

  • October 15 Mastercard requires robust age and consent verification of porn sites in order to process payments

    • Mastercard enacted these policies in an attempt to assist in mitigating porn of trafficking, child sexual abuse, and rape

Several months ago on June 20th, 2022 The New Yorker published an article “The Fight to Hold Pornhub Accountable.” The article encompasses many of the events listed above seeking to expose Pornhub for publishing nonconsensual videos full of child trafficking, trafficking of women, and rape.

Similar to The New York Times article by Kristof, the New Yorker’s article was the extra much-needed pressure to put MindGeek over the edge. The very next day on June 21, 2022, Pornhub’s CEO, Feras Antoon, and MindGeek’s COO, David Tasillo resigned after 10 years.

So where do we go from here? Significant progress has been made in bringing forth the decline of Pornhub, but there is still much work to be done.

While MindGeek is being forced to be held accountable for some of its actions, there remain many nonconsensual videos and entire unregulated subsidiaries under this parent company. One of the primary ways we can continue to move forward is the end teen porn. Women who are barely legal are being forced or coerced into being portrayed as young teens and pre-teens in pornographic films, fueling the industry with pseudo-child sexual content. This portrayal sells the fantasy of having sex with a child or minor. The “End Teen Porn” campaign is led by 22 ex-porn performers and survivor leaders urging the porn industry to raise the age of entry into porn from 18 to 21.

You can sign the petition with Beyond Fantasy to raise the age of entry to 21. Join over 7,000 others to join the fight to #endteenporn. Click on the link to sign:

You can sign the petition to shut down Pornhub and hold MindGeek’s executives accountable at Trafficking Hub. Join over 2 million others to keep the pressure high on MindGeek and help bring justice to women like Jane. Click on the link to sign: In addition, supporting the PROTECT Act of 2022 would enhance the penalties for possessing child sexual abuse material and prevent judges from sentencing offenders below federal guidelines. (Thom Tillis, US Senator for North Carolina) (KTTN News)



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