Pornhub
  • Pornhub's parent company MindGeek on Tuesday was hit with a lawsuit from 40 victims of the sex trafficking operation Girls Do Porn.
  • Girls Do Porn was shut down by the FBI in 2019 after victims said they were tricked and coerced into making videos for the company.
  • The suit alleges Pornhub hosted and profited off Girls Do Porn videos for years, despite knowing the company was engaging in sex trafficking.
  • Pornhub is making sweeping changes to its platform, and on Monday started taking down millions of unverified videos.
  • This follows a 4 December New York Times column that accused Pornhub of hosting illegal content including child pornography and rape.
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Pornhub was hit with a $40 million lawsuit – approximately R600 million – from sex trafficking victims the day after it started deleting millions of videos from its platform, Vice reports.

The lawsuit was filed by 40 women who were victims of a sex trafficking ring known as Girls Do Porn. The website for Girls Do Porn was shut down by the FBI in 2019 after a civil court ruled the owners were guilty of coercing women into having sex in its videos, as well lying about whether those videos would be shared online.

The women on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against MindGeek, Pornhub's parent company, for hosting Girls Do Porn video, allegedly in the knowledge of the company's illegal practises.

"As early as 2009, and definitely by fall 2016, MindGeek knew GirlsDoPorn was trafficking its victims by using fraud, coercion, and intimidation [...] Despite this knowledge, MindGeek continued to partner with GirlsDoPorn, never bothering to investigate or question its business partner regarding the mounting evidence of sex trafficking that MindGeek received," the suit alleged.

It argued that it was an open secret in the porn industry that Girls Do Porn was scamming and coercing girls as soon as it started in 2009. In 2016, victims started to get in touch with Pornhub to have their videos removed, it said.

"I'm going to kill myself if this stays up here. I was scammed and told this was only going to be on DVDs in another country. Please I'm begging you I'll pay," one plaintiff said in a 2016 message to Pornhub. This same victim sent two more messages, and the video was allegedly not taken off MindGeek's sites until after October 2019.

"I was told this video went to a private viewer, and now it is all over the internet. I was lied to, and this isn't okay," another plaintiff said in a 2016 message to MindGeek. A third plaintiff told MindGeek "me and other girls are being brutally harassed."

Pornhub continued to host Girls Do Porn videos even after victims started to come forward and be covered in the press in 2019, and the suit alleged the site still hasn't managed to boot all the videos off its service. "As of 12 December, 2020, MindGeek still hosts victims' videos on its websites, including Plaintiffs," it said. 

The plaintiffs said they endured harassment and ostracisation as the result of their videos being shared online, and all of them had suicidal thoughts as a result. Each plaintiff is seeking at least $1 million in damages.

Girls Do Porn was a "content partner" on Pornhub, meaning the two companies had a contractual agreement. Vice reported in 2019 that Pornhub had at one point described Girls Do Porn as "top shelf" content. The lawsuit alleged this business relationship lasted from 2011 to 2019.

The suit alleged that MindGeek tried to acquire Girls Do Porn's video library in 2018, but backed out after its due diligence turned up more evidence of the company's illegal practises.

Business Insider contacted Pornhub for comment on the allegations contained within the lawsuit.

This lawsuit comes as Pornhub is trying to fend off allegations that it profits from illegal content. Following an explosive New York Times column on December 4 that accused the company of hosting rape videos and child pornography, the company changed its policies so that only verified users can upload content, and started deleting millions of unverified videos from its platform

This came after both Visa and Mastercard withdrew their services from Pornhub, and US lawmakers introduced a bill which, if passed, would allow sex trafficking and revenge porn victims to sue wesbite hosts like Pornhub.

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