34 women sue Pornhub in sex abuse video, trafficking case

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jun 18 2021 08:03 PM

Nearly three dozen women have filed a lawsuit in California against adult video website Pornhub, accusing it and its parent company of knowingly profiting from footage depicting rape and sexual exploitation, including of minors.

Lawyers representing the 34 plaintiffs accuse the online giant -- one of the world's largest adult video websites -- of creating a teeming marketplace for child pornography and "every other form" of nonconsensual sexual content, and want the company to pay damages.

They accuse MindGeek, the controversial adult entertainment empire that runs Pornhub, of being a "classic criminal enterprise" with a business model based on exploiting non-consensual sexual content.

"This is a case about rape, not pornography," the complaint said, describing the website as "likely the largest non-regulatory repository of child pornography in North America and well beyond."

All but one of the plaintiffs, who reside both in the United States and abroad, wished to remain anonymous.

Fourteen said they were minors when they were filmed and should be considered "a victim of child sex trafficking".

Michael Bowe, a lawyer representing the women, told CBS News the court could order MindGeek to pay hundreds of millions to his clients.

Serena Fleites, the only plaintiff to be named, said that in 2014 she learned that "a nude, sexually explicit video" that her boyfriend had coerced her to make when she was only 13 years old had been uploaded to Pornhub without her consent.

The video remained online until the teen, posing as her mother, asked Pornhub to remove it.

Yet the video was not taken down for several weeks, the lawsuit said, and during that time it was downloaded and reuploaded by several different users, with each video requiring a fresh request to remove it.

The plaintiffs' lawyers accuse MindGeek of operating a "gaslighting campaign" online in a bid to discredit the victims, as well as making "threats of physical violence and death" against them.

They are also suing Visa Inc -- one of the world's largest payments processing companies -- for "knowingly" profiting from trafficking in providing merchant services to MindGeek.

Both Visa and Mastercard suspended processing payments for Pornhub in December, after a New York Times article accused the site of hosting illegal content, including child pornography and rape videos.

According to the suit, MindGeek owns more than 100 pornographic sites, including Pornhub, RedTube, Tube8 and YouPorn, and sees some 3.5 billion visits each month.

Montreal-based MindGeek described the suit's accusation that it is running a "criminal enterprise" as "utterly absurd, completely reckless and categorically false," according to US media.

Pornhub, which claims 130 million visitors a day, has denied allegations of trafficking and announced a series of measures to combat illegal content.