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More Than 30 Women Sue Pornhub, Accusing Site Of Profiting Off Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation

Dozens of women accuse the digital pornography giant of profiting off non-consensual content, an allegation the company denies.

By Dorian Geiger

The website Pornhub is accused in a civil lawsuit of violating federal sex trafficking laws by profiting off the spread of child pornography, rape revenge videos, and the sexual exploitation of dozens of victims.

More than 30 women are accusing the online pornography giant, including its parent company, MindGeek, of engaging in a conspiracy to launder illegally uploaded sexually explicit videos and pictures, which are often sourced by means of sexual assault and human trafficking. 

The alleged predatory business model has allowed Pornhub to “become the dominant online pornography company in the world,” stated the lawsuit, which Oxygen.com obtained. The suit was filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

“This case is not about consensual porn or negligence," Michael Bowe, the lead attorney representing the victims, told Oxygen.com. "It’s about a porn company’s intentional election to include in their business model rape and other non-consensual content.”

The women in the lawsuit, who say they're survivors of rape and human trafficking, were “victimized first by their original abuser, and then repeatedly by the defendants in this case," the filings stated.

Serena Fleites, one of the women named in the lawsuit, alleged she had a sexual video of her uploaded to Pornhub when she was in grade 7 by her then-boyfriend — which was repeatedly shared — without her consent. She alleges Pornhub refused to take the video down while the video racked up hundreds of thousands of views.

Fleites provided testimony of her experience to the Canadian House of Commons this year.

“I'm one of the people who ended up homeless, ended up dropping out of school, ended up on drugs, completely detached from my family,” Fleites said. “I ended up trying to kill myself many times. I ended up in mental hospitals.

According to the lawsuit, MindGeek also orchestrated an “astroturf” campaign in recent months, using social media and the press to “shame, discredit, and intimidate victims and advocates who dared to speak out” against Pornhub. 

“Pornhub has been conducting a gaslighting campaign in the media and social media to discredit the victims,” Lauren Tabaksblat, an attorney for the Manhattan-based Brown Rudnick firm, which filed the suit,  said in a statement. “With the filing of this suit, we want to put an end to these shameless attacks, give voice to these and other countless victims, and force MindGeek to adopt practices that ensure only consensual content is on its platform.”

Pornhub, meanwhile, denied the accusations contained in the lawsuit. The company called the lawsuit’s claims “completely reckless and categorically false.” 

"Pornhub has zero tolerance for illegal content and investigates any complaint or allegation made about content on our platforms," the company told Oxygen.com in a statement. "The allegations in today's complaint that Pornhub is a criminal enterprise that traffics women and is run like 'The Sopranos' are utterly absurd.”

Pornhub also took aim at the law firm representing the women, blasting Bowe as “a soldier of the ultra-right wing effort to shut down the adult content industry.” They compared the lawsuit to “holy war.”

The company added it has “the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history, which include the banning of uploads from unverified users, expanding our moderation processes, and cooperating with dozens of non-profit organizations around the world."

In December, Pornhub removed all its videos from unverified users after being threatened with a possible ban by Mastercard and Visa. 

“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 said in a statement

The site, owned by MindGeek, has approximately 130 million daily users, according to the lawsuit. MindGeek oversees upwards of 100 pornographic online assets including Xtube, YouPorn, RedTube, and others. 

Earlier this year, MindGeek was also sued in a separate class action suit in California for violating federal sex trafficking law by an unnamed victim.

The suit accused the company of “knowingly benefited financially from thousands — if not millions — of videos posted to their various websites featuring victims who had not yet reached the age of majority,” according to additional court documents obtained by Oxygen.com.

That case is ongoing.

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