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Screw PornHub—it deserves to go bust

Only willful blindness and legislative immunity could have allowed PornHub to ignore that a search of "girls under18" or "14yo" would lead to more than 100,000 videos on their platform.
Nico Johnson
Nico Johnson Montreal, QC

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be up to date.

It is always slightly bemusing to remember that PornHub's parent company is headquartered in Canada. This country's chief export, it turns out, isn't maple syrup or even inky, Albertan crude (you can thank the Liberal Party for that), but instead illicit, recorded sex.

Of course, the actual recording wasn't done in Canada. Good god no, that would be far too seedy. But the website's administrative arm is certainly located here. These glorified IT assistants have managed to convince us that all this was liberating. PornHub, they said, was a product of this sexual liberation: "the girls you see in our videos really want to do this!"

Needless to say, PornHub has profited immensely. Since its founding in 2007, the website has grown to enormous proportions. It is now the 10th most visited site in the world. The founders achieved this success while pretending that they bore no responsibility for what was posted on their site, taking a similar approach to other platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook.

Only willful blindness and legislative immunity could have allowed PornHub to ignore that a search of "girls under18" or "14yo" would lead to more than 100,000 videos on their platform.

Despite Canada's proximity to the issue, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been acutely silent. The New York Times, who once described Trudeau's government as a "feminist government" have now, like much of Canada's press, criticized the progressive prince for his inaction. This is a company that is almost cheeky in its misogyny, and yet Trudeau has allowed it to flourish.

"Why does [Trudeau] host a company that inflicts rape videos on the world?" Asked the Times. "Well, probably because international media like you promoted him to the point of invincibility," comes the half-arsed response.

If you haven't been on PornHub, it would be difficult to describe just what has made that website so incredibly successful. Fortunately, you all have.

The smirking, winking face of pornography has traffic that would make Netflix and Amazon blush—receiving more than 3 billion visits a month. Their videos have been beamed into every school, household, and public lavatory in the western world. Something this colossal is bound to have an effect on our culture.

For this reason alone, it is worthwhile to consider what, exactly, The New York Times described in their complaint against the site: rape videos, child pornography, revenge pornography, spy cam videos, and that's only the illegal stuff.

But the videos in the legal realm come with their own problems, as much of it is not only extreme but comes up on the website's "suggested videos" feature, which leads to a rabbit hole of more and more NSFW content. Study after study shows that frequent consumers of porn have, well, more extreme tastes, and that these tastes grow more and more extreme the more they are indulged. The human brain is affected by porn, with the "reward centre" resembling that of a drug addict where clicks result in dopamine release.

Worse still is this surprising statistic about porn: the age of the children who visit the site is remarkably young. The charity Youth First discovered that children first view porn around the age of 11.

We know that porn alters the brain, just as alcohol does, which is why governments worldwide have attempted to protect citizens from its ill-effects. Tobacco products are also under legal lock-and-key. In America, the purchasing of vape products comes with a pop-up that attempts to determine your age.

No such feature exists on PornHub. There is no mechanism for the site to prevent children from accessing the material. The hidden cognitive consequences resulting from this fact alone, the ease and accessibility of incredibly damaging material, is hard to quantify.

PornHub is now in damage limitation mode. Multiple statements have been issued by the website's lawyers, declaring that they are "unequivocally committed to combating" the content and has implemented an "industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material."

Not that this has done much, of course. Not even the best PR agency in the world could quell this fury. In the past few days, both Visa and Mastercard have blocked the use of their cards on the PornHub website. PayPal will almost certainly follow their lead. With their online revenue destroyed, it seems only a matter of time before PornHub finally goes bust.

"Why didn't we tackle this sooner?" seems like a good question to ask. More pertinent still is the query as to why PornHub's death rattle comes as a result of corporate embarrassment instead of governmental action, or concern over the harm the site causes to both viewers and, in many cases, to those whose videos end up on the site without their consent.

PornHub on Monday said that they would endeavor to remove "all videos that were not uploaded by  either official content partners or members of its model program." While this is a shift in policy, it does not actually speak to the underlying problem, which is that cheap, ready porn displaying human beings as sexually objectified flesh machines is damaging to our brains and our culture.

Online pornography is the great, open secret of our times. Everyone looks at it. No one talks about it. The damage is reportedly very high, but because no one wants to turn off the valve, the content floods our many devices.

So long as it remains this way, lurking in the shadows, white-washed with quirky advertising campaigns, then why should we care? Well, here's your answer, not that it is likely to change anything.

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