explainer

Pornhub has deleted most of their videos. This story of a 15-year-old girl explains why.

This post deals with sexual abuse and might be triggering for some readers. 

This week, Pornhub removed the majority of the content from their platform. In an unprecedented move, the porn website announced they were deleting all videos on their site that weren’t uploaded by official content partners or members. Since the launch of Pornhub in 2007, anyone has been able to upload a video. Likewise, any viewer has been able to download a video. The process of moderation was minimal, if any. 

According to Motherboard, the site previously hosted around 13.5 million videos. After their purge this week, they now host about 4.7 million.

It came one week after The New York Times published an investigation into the sex trafficking and rape content that Pornhub hosts and profits from. The piece uncovered several examples of sex trafficking, and interviewed women who had been abused for the amusement and satisfaction of millions of strangers on the internet.

Pornhub is visited by 120 million people a day. Image: Getty. 

One story mentioned in the investigation was that of a 15-year-old girl from California, who went missing just after Christmas Day in 2018. She went missing at about 3am, according to the Davie Police Department

No one heard from her for months; not her friends, family or school. There was seemingly no trace of her. 

Two months later, Police say she was seen at a convenience store with two men. The store manager had recognised the girl from missing person reports and contacted police. Surveillance footage shows the girl trying to cover her face. 

The store manager told police that two men had arrived and left, with the girl, in a Dodge Challenger. He said they left before he could check the number plate. 

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Officers were unable to track down the whereabouts of the girl and for the next seven months, their investigations led nowhere. 

Then in September 2019, they received another tip-off. This time, it was from the girl’s mother. She had received information that "sexually explicit" images and videos of her missing daughter had been found online, including on Pornhub. The videos showed the underage girl allegedly being raped. 

Police found approximately 58 videos of the 15-year-old girl that had been circulated online. 

Their investigation found that 30-year-old Christopher Johnson was one of the two men in the videos. They confirmed his license plate, which belonged to the Dodge Challenger spotted at the convenience store months prior.

Police put Johnson’s apartment under surveillance and pulled him over after he left his apartment with the victim one day. He was immediately arrested. 

Johnson claimed he never had sex with the underage girl, but the victim told police the videos were taken inside his apartment and filmed on her phone. They also found paperwork from an abortion clinic inside his apartment. 

“The victim stated that she got pregnant from the defendant and he took her to the clinic to have an abortion,” police said in Johnson’s arrest report, according to NBC News

In October 2019, he was taken into custody and charged with lewd and lascivious battery of a child under the age of 16.

Watch: The hidden numbers of women and violence in Australia. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

This 15-year-old girl’s story did not ignite any response from Pornhub other than the removal of her videos, as demanded by police. Rather, her story is one story in a countless number of stories. One footnote, in a history of abuse that Pornhub has profited from and millions have found pleasure from (sometimes without realising they were viewing rape or abuse). 

In February this year, the BBC reported on the story of Rose Kalemba who was abducted and raped when she was 14 years old before the men dropped her on the side of the road. Later, her friends tagged her in a link to a number of videos, one of which was titled ‘teen crying and getting slapped around’. The footage, uploaded to Pornhub, was of her abuse. She was unconscious in some of the videos. She struggled to get the videos removed by Pornhub, and was only successful when she pretended to be a lawyer. 

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“My rapist put me in a mental prison but Pornhub gave me a life sentence,” she said. 

In March this year, another woman shared that videos of her being raped as a toddler had been uploaded to Pornhub with ads around it. 

“Pornhub MUST be held accountable,” she wrote. “Not only for what they've done to me, but what they have done and are currently doing to thousands of women and girls all over the world.”

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Another story includes the trafficking allegedly committed by New Zealand man Michael Pratt, who is on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. For seven years, the FBI allege Pratt manipulated and coerced women into engaging in commercial sex acts for his pornography production company 'GirlsDoPorn' and 'GirlsDoToys'. Pratt allegedly told the women they would remain anonymous, the videos would not be posted to the Internet and would only be provided to private collectors on DVD. Instead, they were uploaded to Pornhub. The FBI say he generated more than $17 million US dollars in revenue from his alleged trafficking. This week it was announced 40 victims of 'GirlsDoPorn' are suing Pornhub for $1 million each. 

As more and more stories came to light, Pornhub made no permanent change to their systems to protect the videos of victims on their site. Instead, they promoted their content. In March, they gave free Premium access to people living in isolation in Italy, Spain and France.

Last year, the site claimed to have 120 million people visitors every day. This year, self-isolation led to increased viewership, with their worldwide traffic up by 12 per cent in March alone.

But as their audience grew, so too did the calls for them to be shut down. 

A petition to “shut down Pornhub and hold its executives accountable for aiding trafficking,” started by activist group Exodus Cry, has been signed by two million people since it started in February this year.

Two weeks ago, The New York Times piece, titled “The Children of Pornhub”, shared even more stories of alleged victims of Pornhub. The columnist Nicholas Kristof provided his opinion on three steps that would help the company: “1.) Allow only verified users to post videos. 2.) Prohibit downloads. 3.) Increase moderation.”

Last week, credit card companies Visa and Mastercard prohibited their cards from being used on Pornhub. Then, earlier this week, Pornhub made all three of Kristof’s suggested changes, and deleted 75 per cent of their content. 

"This is huge," tweeted rape victim Avri Sapir. 

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature image: Getty. 


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