British lawmakers and campaigners are calling for urgent action to stop videos of rape, revenge porn and child abuse being posted on Pornhub as traffic to the site booms amid a worldwide COVID-19 lockdown.
Pornhub’s traffic is up a record 12 percent this month compared with last month, as millions of people across the world are told to stay in their homes.
Pornhub owner Mindgeek has used the coronavirus lockdowns to promote its site, giving free Premium access to people living in isolation in Italy, Spain and France.
The offer has led to a huge increase in visits to the site from affected countries: a 57 percent rise in Italy, a 39 percent rise in France and a 61 percent rise in Spain. Pornhub is giving some of its profits to the COVID-19 response.
However, campaigners are warning that videos of serious crimes, such as rape, incest and human trafficking, are hidden among the millions of videos uploaded to the Web site by anonymous users, with Pornhub failing to moderate illegal content or ban those uploading them from the site.
Pornhub said it is taking significant steps to stop illegal content being posted.
British lawmakers said that measures to reform and regulate the porn industry have faltered, putting vulnerable people at risk.
Campaigners against “revenge porn” said parents have contacted them in desperation, unable to get non-consensual videos of their children removed from the site.
Last year, attempts to introduce age verification systems into open access porn sites to stop children being able to access extreme online content stalled, and lawmakers have said that proposed regulation in a new online harms bill, currently at consultation stage in parliament, does not go far enough.
“The online harms bill doesn’t go far enough. We have to get control over this industry,” Labour lawmaker Tracy Brabin said. “We have a duty of care to young people whose videos are being shared who might not want them shared, and ... to potential victims of sex trafficking and rape.”
Labour lawmaker Rosena Allin-Khan has been working to support the UK group Not Your Porn in getting revenge porn removed from Pornhub.
“The most alarming thing is that people can be raped and their video can be posted online. That is absolutely shocking, there should be a national outcry,” she said.
Lawmakers from both sides of the political divide agree.
“These are hugely important issues and [the online harms bill] is taking too long, we have been talking about this for two years now,” said Conservative lawmaker Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.
She said the promised duty of care should include a way to hold companies to account if unlawful material is posted.
Activist Laila Mickelwait, part of a group of activists at Exodus Cry, whose online petition attempting to force Pornhub to take down rape and abuse videos has attracted more than 500,000 signatures, said: “Pornhub handing out ‘free’ premium content is a way for them to cash in on those around the world impacted by the pandemic.”
“Pornhub is collecting an incredible amount of user data, including IP addresses, by allowing Web beacons and other special information targeting technology on all user devices, and monetizing it for their own gain,” she added.
Pornhub did not respond to a request for clarity over its collection of user data.
Mindgeek also deny the allegations made in the Exodus Cry petition and insist that it has thorough procedures for removing illegal content.
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