A Petition to Shut Down PornHub Has 2 Million Signatures

Wikimedia Commons/Trafficking Hub Petition

When videos featuring the rape/sexual abuse of women and girls were discovered on the pornography website Pornhub, the “abolition” director of a group called Exodus Cry started a petition to shut the website down.

The director of Exodus Cry created a video describing the website as “Trafficking Hub,” which went viral with more than 30 million views (according to the group’s website); as of September 3, the group’s petition to shut PornHub down has received more than two million signatures.

However, the group Exodus Cry has come under fire for its religious affiliations, according to an investigation by Vice, and for appearing to espouse rhetoric that was hostile to abortion rights and causes of the LGBTQ community. However, the organization and campaign have very strongly refuted these claims.

Laila Mickelwait Has Accused PornHub of Aiding & Facilitating Sex Crimes Against Women & Children

Pornhub Exposed as #TraffickinghubSign the Petition: traffickinghubpetition.com/ Give $7 to Shut Down Pornhub: traffickinghub.com/donate Get the Shirt: go.exoduscry.com/ShutShirt Sources: traffickinghub.com/#press (scroll down to Public Evidence of Exploitation) What proof do we have that Pornhub is enabling and profiting from videos of rape and child sex trafficking? This video exposes what countless victims have suffered. Please help us share…2020-06-30T15:44:46Z

Laila Mickelwait is the Director of Abolition for Exodus Cry as well as the President and Founder of New Reality International, according to her website. She is described as having worked internationally to “advocat(e) fo legislative reform at the United Nations and to policymakers … concerning commercial sexual exploitation including trafficking, prostitution and pornography.”

Mickelwait’s main complaint about the website is that its verification process makes it too easy for underage people, pedophiles and sex traffickers to upload content to the website and that the content itself is not readily moderated. According to what she wrote in her petition:

Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and 6 million videos uploaded per year. Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from.

In fact, all that is needed to upload pornography onto Pornhub is an email address. No government-issued ID is required, not even to become “verified” with its trusty blue checkmark that makes everything seem a-OK.

I know this, because I tried it.

It took me under 10 minutes to create a user account and upload blank test content to the site, which went live instantly. I could have then gone on to become Pornhub-verified, and all I would need to do is send a photo of myself holding a paper with my username. That’s it.

Mickelwait said that she hopes websites hosting pornographic content will change their standards, telling Rapzilla, “If every single person in every single video had to have a third party age and consent verification that regulation would do a great amount of good for all the other sites.”

According to Rapzilla:

There are many spectrums of exploitation readily available on Pornhub and sites just like it. Content ranges from child rape to voyeurism porn with hidden cameras in women’s toilets or changing rooms. There is also a large amount of revenge porn – explicit and intimate moments leaked by ex-boyfriends or husbands to get back at their former significant other.

In her petition, Mickelwait cited several examples of underage girls whose videos were featured on the website. One was the case of a 15-year-old who went missing and was discovered on PornHub (and other websites) through 58 videos, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel; when she was found, the girl said that she had been forced to have an abortion after the man she was with had sex with her.

Another was the case of the owners of GirlsDoPorn. Federal prosecutors accused of the website owners of deceiving, coercing and threatening women into performing video-recorded sex acts and then posting the tapes on pornographic websites, including PornHub, which gave the websites their own channel. The women eventually won a civil suit of nearly $13 million.

PornHub Says It Is Actively Working to Prevent Unauthorized & Illegal Videos From Appearing on Its Website

According to what the vice president of PornHub, Blake White, told the Daily Dot, PornHub uses multiple tools to prevent “non-consensual content and child sexual abuse material”:

Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and child sexual abuse material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate. While the wider tech community must continue to develop new methods to rid the internet of this horrific content, Pornhub is actively working to put in place state-of-the-art, comprehensive safeguards on its platform to combat this material.

These actions include a robust system for flagging, reviewing and removing all illegal material, employing an extensive team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing all uploads to the site, and using a variety of digital fingerprinting solutions. We use automated detection technologies such as YouTube’s CSAI Match and Microsoft’s PhotoDNA as added layers of protection to keep unauthorized content off the site. We also use Vobile, a state-of-the-art fingerprinting software that scans any new uploads for potential matches to unauthorized materials to protect against any banned video being re-uploaded to the platform.

We are actively working on expanding our safety measures and adding new features and products to our platform to this end, as they become available. Furthermore, Pornhub will continue to work with law enforcement efforts and child protection non-profits in the goal of eliminating any and all illegal content across the internet.

The vice president also attacked Mickelwait’s petition, writing, “The petition is not only factually wrong and intentionally misleading, it was created and is promoted by a radical rightwing fundamentalist group in the United States—a group who’s founders have long vilified and attacked LGBTQ communities and women’s rights groups, aligned themselves with hate groups, and espoused extremist and despicable language.”

In a response to The Sunday Times article which also said it found prevalent instances of minors on the website, White told The Drum, “It is important to note that oftentimes videos described as ‘hidden camera footage’ or ‘young teen’ are in fact legal, consensual videos that are produced to cater to various user fantasies. They are in fact protected by various freedom of speech laws. Certain words are banned from being used in titles and tags, and we will be doing a thorough audit of our websites to update and expand this list.”

Micheklwait has criticized these responses, noting that she cannot find a real person by the name of “Blake White.”

The Group Exodus Cry Has Come Under Fire for Its Older Rhetoric

Mickelwait’s campaign has not only earned her support — it has also earned her the ire of sex workers who accused her and her group, Exodus Cry, of wanting to shut down the entire industry of commercial sex work.

“What people who sign the TraffickingHub petition might not understand is that the campaign, while focused on Pornhub, comes from the world of anti-sex trafficking activism—and specifically, from a large Christian organization, Exodus Cry, which opposes decriminalizing or legalizing sex work and wants to abolish porn altogether,” Vice reported. “The people speaking out against TraffickingHub, many of them sex workers and abuse survivors themselves, say its parent organization has a history of homophobia and bigotry, and are peddling a victim narrative to “save” sex workers while harming them with pushes for legislation that doesn’t work.”

“Fighting” the commercial sex industry is part of the Trafficking Hub platform, and Exodus Cry has described sex work in this way:

MOST WOMEN IN PROSTITUTION ARE SUFFERING from poverty and are pulled into the industry by their desperate need for money just to survive. But the sad fact is that almost no one gets out of poverty through prostitution. In fact, as legal scholar Catherine Mackinnon put it, “they are lucky to get out with their lives given the mortality figures.” No one chooses to be poor when given other options.

In addition to poverty, a prior history of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse is commonplace amongst prostituted women. It is extremely rare to find a person in prostitution who has not suffered from abuse before their time in the sex industry. No one chooses to be abused.

However, the website also says, “Exodus Cry believes that those in the sex industry should never be criminalized, but instead should be decriminalized and offered social services if desired.”

Vice reported that sex workers Ginger Banks, Gwen Adora and Maya Morena — as well as author Justine Halley — have been in opposition to the petition because campaigns such as the Trafficking Hub fail to acknowledge that decriminalizing sex work might make ending sex trafficking and sexual abuse easier, as Amnesty International has said.

Much of the criticism comes from Exodus Cry’s roots, which were described as “Christian fundamentalists” according to Open Democracy. Exodus Cry’s executives have expressed strong stances against gay marriage, abortion and “promiscuity” (as evidenced by a movie, “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution,” made by the organization and released by Netflix).

Critics also pointed to a 2013 tweet from Exodus Cry President Benjamin Nolot calling “homosexual marriage” a “unspeakable offense to God.” Nolot responded to questions about his earlier comments in a statement that Vice reported: “Today, like many, my views have evolved and I believe every individual should make that decision for themselves without government being involved in such a personal choice. I advocate for the right of all people to be free from all forms of oppression and that without question includes the LGBTQ+ community.”

Vice reported that recently, the organization has gradually removed mentions of religion from its name and materials since 2015. Mickelwait responded to questions about the organization’s agenda with a statement from the Exodus Cry website: “Exodus Cry is an organization that since its inception has never advocated, campaigned, or focused on any other issue besides sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation is the singular focus of Exodus Cry, and any suggestion that Exodus Cry has campaigned against any other issue is categorically false.”

The website also features a “Statement of inclusion,” which refutes many of the allegations and criticisms made by others.

The Campaign Also Has Support From Sex Workers & Sexual Assault Survivors

Adult film stars Rebecca Lord and Jenna Jameson have famously embraced this campaign, with Jameson writing, “Reminder: Pornhub profits off of the rape and torture of women and children. Take a stand against these evil monsters at MindGeek (their parent company). Stop the use of Pornhub!!!”

There are even Twitter pages dedicated to by groups that call themselves sex workers, such as “Sex Workers against Pornhub” and “Sex Workers Against Sexual Abuse.” One of the groups, “Sex Workers Against Sexual Abuse,” tweeted, “One of the duties sex workers have is to protect minors from predators in our spaces. Age verification, background checks on clients, and the ousting of predators and human traffickers are all a part of that. That being said @pornhub is complicit in child abuse. By refusing to remove or admit fault in hosting the over 200+ videos of minors being raped on their platform, @Pornhub is inherently complicit in the abuse of these children.”

One of the most cited examples of these victims is Rose Kalemba, who was raped as a 14-year-old and afterward, a video of the rape was posted on PornHub; Kalemba described in a BBC article struggling for months to get PornHub to take the videos down. “I sent Pornhub begging emails. I pleaded with them. I wrote, ‘Please, I’m a minor, this was assault, please take it down.'”

In a statement regarding the failure, PornHub sent a statement to the BBC, which read in part, “These horrific allegations date back to 2009, several years prior to Pornhub being acquired by its current owners, so we do not have information on how it was handled at that time. Since the change in ownership, Pornhub has continuously put in place the industry’s most stringent safeguards and policies when it comes to combating unauthorized and illegal content, as part of our commitment to combating child sex abuse material.

READ NEXT: Did Kamala Harris Shut Down Backpage? Not Quite

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x