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  1. Millions of videos purged from Pornhub amid crackdown on user content Almost 2/3 of content “suspended” as Pornhub scrambles following NYT report. Enlarge / A Pornhub logo at the company's booth during the 2018 AVN Adult Expo on January 25, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Getty Images | Gabe Ginsberg 55 with 38 posters participating, including story author Pornhub last night purged millions of user-uploaded videos from its platform amid allegations that it was hosting content featuring child sexual exploitation, nonconsensual violence, rape, and other unlawful material. "As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program," Pornhub said in a company blog post, as first reported by Vice. The purge appears to have hit almost 9 million of the 13.5 million videos on Pornhub as of Sunday, or nearly two-thirds of all the content hosted on the site. "This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders, a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to institute," the company added. "In today’s world, all social media platforms share the responsibility to combat illegal material. Solutions must be driven by real facts and real experts. We hope we have demonstrated our dedication to leading by example." The swipe at other social media platforms is no accident. "It is clear that Pornhub is being targeted not because of our policies and how we compare to our peers, but because we are an adult content platform," the company added. Citing Facebook's transparency report, the company added, "Over the last three years, Facebook self-reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material. During that same period, the independent, third-party Internet Watch Foundation reported 118 incidents on Pornhub. That is still 118 too many, which is why we are committed to taking every necessary action." So fast, too slow The rapid changes at Pornhub follow a December 4 report from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who alleged that "many" of the 6.8 million videos uploaded to Pornhub each year depict rape, child sexual exploitation, or other unlawful activity. At the time of the report, Pornhub allowed any user to upload content—and to download content, adding a new layer of difficulty to moderation, as anything that was taken down could simply be re-uploaded again. Kristof interviewed multiple young women who had videos of them uploaded to the site without their knowledge or consent when they were children or teenagers, and who claimed the videos kept resurfacing even after they requested them taken down. The report was published on a Friday, and before the end of that weekend, both Visa and MasterCard were conducting their own investigations of Pornhub and its parent company, Mindgeek. By Wednesday, Pornhub had halted uploads and downloads from users outside of its "content partners" and verified "model" program, which theoretically would drastically reduce the potential for unlawful, abusive, or exploitative videos to be uploaded to the site. Today's purge of unverified content is an extension of that policy change, Pornhub explained. The policy change, however, apparently came too late for Visa and MasterCard, as both payment processors banned Pornhub from accepting either platform as payment. The ripple effects go beyond just hurting the site or Mindgeek. Now, verified performers and sex workers who rely on Pornhub hosting to make a completely legal living currently cannot get paid for their work through Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or PayPal. Millions of videos purged from Pornhub amid crackdown on user content
  2. Sex workers say 'defunding Pornhub' puts their livelihoods at risk Credit card giants Visa, Mastercard and Discover have blocked all payments to Pornhub, after the adult site was accused of being "infested" with child abuse and rape-related videos. However, sex workers are saying that the sudden decision has put their livelihoods at risk, and will not solve the problem of illegal content. Adult performer Mary Moody has started a campaign to raise awareness on the consequence for performers like her. "I personally stand to lose thousands each month, but I want to spotlight the many workers who will be losing the income they rely on for survival, especially during the pandemic," she said. A New York Times article by Nicholas Kristof highlighted the presence of illegal content on Pornhub. He called on banks and credit card companies to suspend co-operation with the site as a consequence. The article prompted card companies to carry out their own investigations and eventually block payments to the site. Mary Moody is trying to raise awareness about what the credit cards block means for sex workers In response, Pornhub made drastic changes. It banned downloads and deleted all videos, except those uploaded by verified users. Adult performers and producers had been campaigning for these features for years. The ability for any user to freely download and upload content had made it possible for pirated, stolen and illegal videos to proliferate, while also making sales of original content more difficult. Now only verified creators can upload videos to Pornhub. But the credit card suspension also makes it almost impossible for performers to receive payments or tips on the website. "Pornhub is the largest platform we have access to, by number of viewers and name recognition," said Ms Moody. "It comes at the top of Google searches for pretty much any industry worker." Many performers also use other adult platforms and subscription sites, such as OnlyFans. But Ms Moody said making the jump was more difficult than it might appear to outsiders. "Models who focused on Pornhub are out of a lot of income, and it's not as easy as it sounds to switch platforms and immediately make money." 'Feeling helpless' Swedish performer Cara Vega said: "I've made $34 (£25) in Pornhub in December, which is not a lot. "There's not a lot you can do about it, which makes you feel really helpless. I have friends who are considering leaving the business as a whole, just because Pornhub was such a big source of income." The sudden and unexpected change has been an additional source of stress for performers, who have often spent months or years building up a following. "We didn't have time to prepare for it or to set money aside to pay rent the next month or anything like that," said Ms Vega. "Visa and MasterCard acted in a very irresponsible way, leaving people without income overnight." Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has also complained about the firms exercising "censorship powers". It said this was similar to how they had earlier tried to cut off payments to "countless sex workers" and Wikileaks, among others. "Any website or individual can find itself running foul of Visa and Mastercard's moral sensibilities," it blogged in December. Some of the adult performers share this concern. "I'm worrying that the same thing will happen to other platforms," says June Liu, the third-highest ranked model on Pornhub's section for independent creators. But in a recent interview with a New York Times podcast, Mastercard's chief executive insisted that the decision had nothing to do with morals and was based solely on legal concerns. And, in a statement on Twitter, Visa said: "Given the allegations of illegal activity, Visa is suspending Pornhub's acceptance privileges pending the completion of our ongoing investigation. "At Visa, we are vigilant in our efforts to stamp out illegal activity on our network, and we encourage our financial institution partners to regularly review their merchants' compliance of our standards on this and other platforms." Sex workers argue that the freeze won't affect abusers and criminals who uploaded illegal content, as only certified creators could sell videos. "Why should Visa or Mastercard decide that a person can't spend their money on something that's completely legal?" said adult performer and sex workers' rights activist Ginger Banks. Sex workers often feel discriminated against by financial institutions, because working in the sex industry makes it difficult to access services and incurs higher fees. "I genuinely hope crypto-currency makes them irrelevant," said Ms Banks. Pornhub does still accept payments via Bitcoin. 'Religiously motivated' "The credit card block is the result of the campaigning by religiously-motivated groups like Exodus Cry," claimed adult performer Valentina Nappi. "The real target of these groups is not to help victims or fight illegal content on the internet, but to ban all forms of adult material." Traffickinghub, the biggest campaign against Pornhub, is led by Exodus Cry, a Christian group dedicated to abolishing all forms of sex work. Laila Mickelwait, founder of the Traffickinghub campaign, calls for Pornhub to be shut down The campaign says that Pornhub is consciously complicit in abuse, trafficking and violence, by profiting from the illegal content hosted on the site. It should be therefore "shut down" and held accountable. There have been several reported examples of Pornhub being slow to remove illegal or contested content, as documented by this BBC investigation last year. "Unverified users are now banned from uploading content - a policy no other platform has put in place, including Facebook, which reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material over the last three years," said Pornhub in a statement. "In comparison, the Internet Watch Foundation reported 118 incidents on Pornhub over the last three years." Sex workers and adult sites argue that the issue with illegal and abusive material affects all platforms allowing users to upload content, including social media. "I have called the Swedish authorities five times in the last couple of months, because I've seen child porn on Reddit," said Ms Vega. "Removing the ability for people to purchase ethically-made good porn from independent creators doesn't have any positive effect." Source: Sex workers say 'defunding Pornhub' puts their livelihoods at risk
  3. Pornhub Announces 'Biometric Technology' to Verify Users Following bans from payment processors and mass deletion of most of its content, Pornhub announced new details on its improved trust and safety polices. VIA GETTY IMAGES In a statement released on Tuesday, Pornhub announced more details on how it plans to address abuse on its platform, including expanding its human moderation team, an upcoming transparency report, and introducing biometric technology to verify users who upload videos. The new announcement comes after the platform came under scrutiny in December for claims it hosted child sexual abuse materia. Major payment processors including Visa and Mastercard suspended services to Pornhub indefinitely following those allegations, a decision sex workers who use the platform for income said would harm them. In December, Pornhub banned all non-verified users from posting to the site, and deleted all content uploaded from unverified sources—which amounted to more than 80 percent of all videos on the platform. It also suspended new verifications, pending revised policies. Tuesday's statement says that verification will still be limited to people in Pornhub's Model Program, and verification will be done by Yoti, a digital identity verification company, "by providing a current photo and government-approved identification document." "Yoti will check the validity of the ID document and match the user’s ID document to their photo using secure biometric technology," according to the statement. Following its unverified user ban and content purge, Pornhub promised more details about how verification would work in the new year—while fetish and trans creators wondered if identity verification would exclude them from using the platform. Trans performer Dylan Thomas told me at the time that he was concerned about excluding already-marginalized groups with stricter verification processes, and that Pornhub could avoid this by consulting with, and hiring, them to help create the new system. In a Twitter response to Thomas on Tuesday, Yoti said that it partnered with UK-based transgender charity Sparkle, and linked to an announcement of the partnership from 2019 that says the organizations are working together to make the process of proving one's identity more inclusive. Other portions of the expanded policies include details about how moderators will work going forward, including that they will "regularly monitor search terms within the platform for increases in phrasings that attempt to bypass the safeguards in place." A Motherboard investigation in 2020 found that Pornhub users could bypass the platform's moderation efforts with slightly modified search terms. Moderators will also be trained more rigorously, and offered support and therapy. "Content moderators will also undergo further exhaustive training to identify potentially illegal material and testing," Pornhub said. "If needed, content moderators have access to specialized support, including wellness benefits and therapeutic measures, to support them in their critical work." Platforms like Facebook and YouTube have been criticized in the past about their poor labor practices for moderators who have to view violent or sexually explicit content all day. In September, a former contracted content moderator at YouTube brought a class action lawsuit against the company for its lack of support for moderators who view traumatizing content as part of their jobs. In its statement, Pornhub also announced that it will release a transparency report "detailing its content moderation results from 2020, including the total number of reports filed with [the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children], as well as other key details related to the trust and safety of the platform." "Much like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other tech platforms, Pornhub seeks to be fully transparent about the content that should and should not appear on the platform," Pornhub said in the statement. "This report will be the first of its kind among adult content platforms, setting the standard for transparency and accountability in the industry." Motherboard reached out to Visa and Mastercard to ask if the expanded policies will affect their policies on payment suspensions, and will update if we hear back. Source: Pornhub Announces 'Biometric Technology' to Verify Users
  4. Pornhub’s Upload Filter Blocked Over 100K ‘Pirated’ Videos in 2020 Popular adult video site Pornhub has released a transparency report showing how it responds to problematic content. Last year, more than half a million pieces of content were taken down following DMCA notices. In addition, Pornhub also deployed an automatic upload filter that caught more than 100,000 videos before they went online Pornhub is without a doubt one of the most visited adult entertainment outlets on the Internet. The company, which is owned by the Mindgeek conglomerate, is loved by many but it’s certainly not without controversy. Illegal Content A few months ago, a New York Times article linked the site to child exploitation and abuse. This prompted Pornhub to organize a massive review of the content on its site, resulting in a mass removal of videos. This isn’t the first time that Pornhub has been criticized. While on a different level, there have been plenty of copyright complaints from within the adult entertainment industry as well. Retired porn icon Jenna Haze, for example, previously warned against PornHub while citing it as a reason to quit her directing work. “Please don’t support sites like porn hub,” Haze wrote at the time. “They are a tube site that pirates content that other adult companies produce. It’s like Napster!” Some have argued that at least in part, Pornhub and other Mindgeek-owned tube sites built their business on pirated content. However, the scope of the alleged infringing activity of Pornhub users wasn’t entirely clear. This changed a few days ago when the site released its first transparency report. More Than 500,000 DMCA Takedowns The report shows that hundreds of thousands of videos were removed for violations of its terms of service and Pornhub gives further insight into its DMCA takedown efforts. Last year, the site says it removed 544,021 pieces of content following DMCA takedowns. As the figure below shows, the takedowns peaked in April at the height of the first coronavirus lockdowns. The volume dropped significantly in December, when the site purged its content library following abuse and exploitation allegations. More than half a million DMCA takedowns is a substantial number and it shows that pirated content is not just an incidental problem. It will be interesting to see how this will change over time, now that Pornhub is actively verifying uploaders. Pornhub Upload Filter There is another element from Pornhub’s transparency report that’s worth highlighting too. The platform is not just responding to takedown notices, it also uses Vobile’s MediaWise system to filter uploads. “In addition to DMCA requests, we prevented an additional 106,841 pieces of copyright-protected content from being published by scanning our uploads against content which was previously fingerprinted,” Pornhub writes. With this upload filter, the site may be in part responding to the obligation that was set forth in the EU Copyright Directive. This requires online platforms to ensure that infringing content is taken down and not re-uploaded to their services. The transparency report shows that Pornhub takes copyright infringement and other illegal content seriously. This is to be expected, especially since its parent company Mindgeek is known to take a very aggressive stance toward copyright infringers. In recent years, Mindgeek has repeatedly used the DMCA to uncover the identities of the operators of copyright-infringing sites. In addition, it has filed lawsuits against people who downloaded pirated copies of its work via torrent sites. Criticism Remains That said, plenty of Pornhub criticism remains. Just last weekend, CTV News reported on a woman who had to go to extreme lengths to have non-consensual footage removed from the site. While the video was swiftly removed, the thumbnails initially remained available. This resulted in a heated discussion between the two parties. Among other things, the woman pointed out that Pornhub offers a service to help ‘its own’ models take down content from third-party sites while caring little about her problem. “It is interesting how capable and diligent you are when it comes to your monetized ‘exclusive’ content, while caring absolutely nothing about the non-consensual content you (illegally) choose to host,” the woman wrote to the site. Double Role Aside from documenting a terrible personal situation, the article also highlights that Pornhub has somewhat of a double role when it comes to the DMCA. On the one hand it receives DMCA notices but on the other, it also sends DMCA takedowns to third-party sites to protect its exclusive models. “You can now opt in to be exclusive to the Pornhub Network in order to help protect your content from being uploaded to other websites,” the site writes, advertising its own takedown service. “Nothing is worse than seeing your content on other sites if you’re not getting paid for it,” Pornhub notes. Given all of the recent outrage, the latter statement is rather unfortunate. It’s not hard to imagine a situation where videos uploaded to Tube sites could do much more than financial damage. Pornhub’s Upload Filter Blocked Over 100K ‘Pirated’ Videos in 2020
  5. Pornhub Owner Sends Millions of Takedown Notices a Year A few weeks ago, Pornhub revealed that it received more than 500,000 DMCA takedown requests last year. However, Pornhub and owner Mindgeek are rightsholders too and are also using the DMCA to their advantage. The companies told us that they sent notices targeting 4.5 million infringing URLs over the past year. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The adult industry is rather diverse but Mindgeek has a particularly large footprint The company, formerly known as Manwin, owns one of the most visited adult websites, Pornhub, and is also the driving force behind YouPorn, Redtube, Tube8, Xtube, and dozens of other sites. Many of these tube sites became big by offering access to a wide variety of content, some of it posted without permission. However, that doesn’t mean that Mindgeek is turning a blind eye to pirates. On the contrary. Receiving Takedown Notices Earlier this month, Pornhub’s transparency report revealed that the site removed 544,021 pieces of content following DMCA takedown requests. In addition, the site’s automatic upload filter blocked more than 100,000 videos before they were published. Those are interesting stats, showing that there is plenty of copyright-infringing material posted on the site. However, Pornhub and Manwin have a double role when it comes to copyright. In fact, they are also major rightsholders in the entertainment adult world. As highlighted previously, adult creators can sign a deal with Pornhub to become exclusive to the site. To help protect this content, the site will then send DMCA takedown notices to other services where their content appears. Unfortunately, PornHub’s transparency report didn’t mention how many DMCA notices the company sends each year. To find out more, we reached out to the site, whose copyright issues are handled centrally by Mindgeek. Mindgeek Sent 4.5 Million Takedowns to Sites After first speaking with Mindgeek’s Anti-Piracy Strategy Manager, our questions were forwarded to the PR department, which was willing to share some details, but not too many. “MindGeek sent notices for 4.5 million infringing URLs over the past 12 months,” a Mindgeek spokesperson informed us. The volume of takedown requests that are sent well exceeds the number of DMCA notices Pornhub receives. However, these are for all Mindgeek content, not just for exclusive Pornhub models. We requested a more detailed breakdown, but Mindgeek said it couldn’t provide that. Also, it is worth noting that the 4.5 million URLs only reference sites that host or display infringing content directly. Mindgeek didn’t include the takedown notices that are sent to search engines, which are much higher in number. Mindgeek Sends Over a Million Takedowns to Google Every Week Looking at Google’s transparency report we see that last month alone, Mindgeek asked the search engine to remove eight million allegedly infringing links. This adds up to hundreds of millions of URLs over the past several years, making Mindgeek one of the top takedown senders. Since US lawmakers are currently considering options to improve the DMCA legislation, we also asked Mindgeek and Pornhub if they had any suggestions. As they’re both a content platform and copyright holder, they can evaluate the current law from both sides. However, Mindgeek declined to make any recommendations. Fingerprinting and Manual Checks Mindgeek and Pornhub did stress their commitment to the anti-piracy side of the business, however. Their takedown processes involve some manual verification but also rely on automated processes and fingerprinting technology. “We use industry-leading tools both internally and via external vendors including digital fingerprinting technologies to ensure accurate and valid identification of our protected content at scale,” Mindgeek’s spokesperson told us. In fact, the company has developed its own “SafeGuard” fingerprinting tool, which it will make freely available to other sites in the future. Perhaps that can ultimately help to lower the number of takedown notices the company has to send. Pornhub Owner Sends Millions of Takedown Notices a Year
  6. Pornhub said it's 'devastated' by PayPal's decision to stop payouts to models on its platform. Late Wednesday night, Pornhub announced that PayPal is no longer supporting payments for Pornhub—a decision that will impact thousands of performers using the site as a source of income. Most visitors to Pornhub likely think of it as a website that simply provides access to an endless supply of free porn, but Pornhub also allows performers to upload, sell, and otherwise monetize videos they make themselves. Performers who used PayPal to get paid for this work now have to switch to a different payment method. "We are all devastated by PayPal's decision to stop payouts to over a hundred thousand performers who rely on them for their livelihoods," the company said on its blog. It then directed models to set up a new payment method, with instructions on how PayPal users can transfer pending payments. "We sincerely apologize if this causes any delays and we will have staff working around the clock to make sure all payouts are processed as fast as possible on the new payment methods," the statement said. A PayPal spokesperson told Motherboard: “Following a review, we have discovered that Pornhub has made certain business payments through PayPal without seeking our permission. We have taken action to stop these transactions from occurring.” A spokesperson for Pornhub told Motherboard: "Decisions like that of PayPal and other major companies do nothing but harm efforts to end discrimination and stigma towards sex workers. While we still have several payment methods for our models available, we will continue to add more sex worker friendly ones and explore cryptocurrency options in the near future." PayPal is one of many payment processors that have discriminated against sex workers for years. Its acceptable use policy states that "certain sexually oriented materials or services" are forbidden—phrasing that's intentionally vague enough to allow circumstances like this to happen whenever the company wants. The list of payment platforms, payment apps, and banks that forbid sexual services in their terms of use is very, very long, and includes everything from Venmo to Visa. Many of these terms have been in place for nearly a decade—and payment processors have been hostile toward sex work long before harmful legislation like the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act came into law last year. But those laws only help to embolden companies to kick sex workers off their platforms, and make the situation even more confusing and frustrating for performers. Source
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