‘It definitely shuts down a lot of those avenues for abuse.’ Pornhub removes videos from unverified users

The website Pornhub has taken down 80% of its content and plans to verify users starting January 2021. Photo by Federico Pestellini/Reuters.

The website Pornhub has taken down 80% of its content. The move came after New York Times columnist NIcholas Kristof wrote a story saying the site hosted videos of women and children being raped. Mastercard, Discover and Visa then said they would block customers from using their cards on the site.

Now Pornhub says uploading new content requires creators to be verified. That means videos featuring minors and sexual violence won’t be as pervasive on one of the largest porn sites in the world. 

“Making it so it’s harder for people to upload whatever they want to  Pornhub is absolutely a safer move for the platform and for people on it,” says Vice staff writer Samantha Cole, who’s been following the changes at Pornhub. 

She continues, “It’s also much safer for people who are using it as their livelihoods. It was a huge problem on the site with porn piracy and people stealing content.” 

Since the site launched in 2007, anyone could make an account and upload whatever they wanted, though Pornhub said it had some moderation in place, according to Cole. 

This is not a new problem for the internet in general, she says. 

“It's a problem that's across all social media outlets. … There were 84 million instances of child sexual abuse imagery on Facebook in the same time period that we were looking at Pornhub over the last three years. … And it's absolutely a big problem that we've known about for a long time, and that porn performers and sex workers have been telling Pornhub specifically that they needed to get a handle on it before it became just a blow-up like it has. And they've been complaining about it for years.”

Is it too little too late now? Previously, Pornhub allowed users to download content, meaning once a video was uploaded to the site, it could be shared elsewhere. 

“That’s how the stuff goes viral. … That's when we see the harassment come up, where people with families see the content. … It spreads through schools really quickly. So when you make it so people who aren't verified with their identity can't download or reupload the videos, it definitely shuts down a lot of those avenues for abuse.” 

Pornhub says going to forward, it will eliminate the ability for users to download most videos. 

Financial loss 

Even with 80% of Pornhub’s content down, Cole says she thinks the company itself will be okay. 

“I think the performers who were relying on it might not be. I mean, they're the ones who are keeping the site alive and … are now suffering because of these decisions that these major companies are making,” she says. 

Many people who used the site for their livelihoods now won’t have payouts from the world's biggest credit companies, so it’s a huge financial blow, Cole says. 

Still, there’s a chance that the credit card companies could agree to work with the site again, and many people are hoping that will happen, she says. 

Who the content creators are 

A lot of different people are doing this for different reasons, according to Cole.  

“Some of it is big companies … people in the [San Fernando] Valley who are running big porn production companies. A lot more, though, are individuals and people just setting up accounts on the site that they can then monetize their content and get fans that way.”

The verification process 

The specifics of how Pornhub plans to verify people are unclear right now. Cole explains that before this announcement, prospective users submitted a selfie of their face and then a piece of paper that says the website they’re trying to access. The process was similar to what people do for Reddit. 

The site now says they’re going to boost that by possibly requiring a proof of identification and content ownership, she says.  

“We don't really know how that's going to shake out. It's all going to start in the new year. It’s when they're going to start reverifying people, so we'll see what happens then.”

Credits

Guest:

  • Samantha Cole - senior writer for Vice’s Motherboard, covering sex and technology