Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Friday called for the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the pornographic video website Pornhub after a disturbing investigation by a New York Times columnist revealed the website is “infested with rape videos,” some of them include children.
New York Times prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof reported that Pornhub, which attracts 3.5 billion visitors a month and is the 10th-most-visited website in the world, profits off videos that depict child rape, revenge porn, voyeuristic videos of nonconsenting women showering, and more explicit and potentially illegal pornographic content.
“Its site is infested with rape videos,” Kristof writes. “It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags. A search for “girls under18” (no space) or “14yo” leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos. Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are.”
In the course of his reporting, Kristof interviewed several women whose lives were destroyed after degrading videos depicting their rapes were published on Pornhub. Some of them have attempted suicide from the shame and humiliation.
Pornhub and its parent company, MindGeek – based legally in Luxembourg but with offices in Montreal, London, Nicosia and Los Angeles – have come under fire from anti-sexual exploitation activists who accuse the companies of profiting off human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The Traffickinghub campaign, founded by Laila Mickelwait of Exodus Cry, an anti-trafficking group, last March launched a petition calling attention to rape and abusive videos hosted by Pornhub and demanding that the website be shut down and the company’s executives be held accountable.
The movement against Pornhub has attracted the attention of some U.S. lawmakers, including Sasse, who say it is past time for the federal government to act.
“The Department of Justice needs to open an investigation into the scumbags who run Mindgeek,” Sen. Sasse told the Daily Caller News Foundation Friday. “Sexual exploitation and human trafficking are abhorrent, period. A decent society should be working to end this.
“It is completely unacceptable that Pornhub and its parent company Mindgeek make money from rape, sexual abuse, and the exploitation of minors,” Sasse added. “They need to be investigated, and the DOJ needs more urgency about building cases against creeps.”
Sasse was joined by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) who praised Kristof’s reporting and promised to introduce legislation to enable victims of trafficking or sexual exploitation to sue websites like Pornhub.
Pornhub has denied accusations that it allows videos of child rape on its website, calling the accusations “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.”
“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,” Pornhub said in a statement to Kristof.
Kristof’s article tells horrific stories of child abuse and exploitation hosted on Pornhub’s website. One woman, whose 15-year-old daughter went missing in Florida, reported finding her in 58 pornographic videos featured on the website. In another case of abuse, a 14-year-old girl’s sexual assaults were posted on Pornhub and were not reported to authorities until a classmate saw the videos and took action.
Another woman interviewed by Kristof said, “Pornhub became my trafficker,” after her adoptive family forced her to appear in pornographic videos beginning when she was just 9 years old. She says videos of her abuse were hosted on Pornhub and regularly reappear there. She worries that one day she may have children who will find those videos.
“Pornhub is like YouTube in that it allows members of the public to post their own videos. 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. “Because it’s impossible to be sure whether a youth in a video is 14 or 18, neither Pornhub nor anyone else has a clear idea of how much content is illegal.”
For now, Kristof notes, Pornhub has “escaped responsibility for sharing the videos and profiting from them.” Sasse and other lawmakers seek to change that.