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Canadian-based site Pornhub under fire

 

December 17, 2020 | Colin Postma

(At the bottom of this article is a call to action: Please sign the petition sponsored by MP Arnold Viersen in the House of Commons asking the government to act to protect young people from exposure to pornography.)

In a year where good news has been in short supply, it is wonderful to see rapid positive developments on an issue that we’ve been concerned about for a long time. An exposé post in The New York Times targeted Pornhub, a Canadian based for-profit pornography business. The article highlighted major problems relating to the age of those portrayed in some of the pornographic videos, and raised concerns around consent, as the platform had been based on user-uploaded content in such a way that unverified users could upload videos any number of times.

Pornhub has for many years claimed that allegations of them hosting footage of rape and sexual exploitation of children are false, but under pressure from the public attention begun by the NYT article, they recently removed over two-thirds of their videos. Any videos from unregistered accounts have been removed. Previously hosting some 13 million videos from numerous accounts, the website is now only hosting around 4 million videos – still 4 million too many, but a testament to the power of positive public pressure against a social evil.

A testament to the power of positive public pressure against a social evil.

After this public outcry, pressure was also placed on Mastercard and VISA to follow in the footsteps of PayPal, which had ended association with the website in 2019. In the last few days Mastercard has severed ties and VISA has started its own investigation into the website. MP Arnold Viersen, who has been active on this file throughout his time in Parliament, asked in a social media post, “Big question – why was Mastercard able to investigate, CONFIRM illegal content, and take action in 3 days while governments have known about this for months with no investigation or charges?”

Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith introduced a motion during a meeting of the Ethics Committee of the House of Commons on December 11th which stated, “That the committee call representatives of Pornhub / Mindgeek, namely Feras Antoon and David Tassillo, to explain the company’s failure to prohibit rape videos and other illegal content from its site, and what steps it has taken and plans to take to protect the reputation and privacy of young people and other individuals who have never provided their consent.” The motion was adopted unanimously by committee members of all parties.

The Liberal Government has responded to this pressure with indications that early next year they will be introducing legislation, or amending ongoing legislation, to address these concerns. We don’t know exactly what that legislation will look like, but we are hopeful that an investigation will result in further positive outcomes.

The Liberal Government has responded to this pressure with indications that early next year they will be introducing legislation, or amending ongoing legislation, to address these concerns.

Primed for action

Several MPs and Senators have been working on this file for many years, seeking to address concerns of abuse, rape, sexual exploitation, pedophilia, and sexual trafficking connected with online media, as well as the exposure of young children to online explicit material.

Much work has also been going on behind the scenes with the work of anti sex-trafficking organizations, anti-pornography groups, and more. While these efforts have made significant differences for individuals, there have been only small gains against massive for-profit organizations like Pornhub. This current public pressure has the potential to shift the tide and is an opportunity to advance the fight against pornography and its victims.

This current public pressure has the potential to shift the tide and is an opportunity to advance the fight against pornography and its victims.

MindGeek, which owns PornHub and many other similar websites, recently relocated from Europe to Canada because their ability to operate more freely and broadly here in North America with fewer legal restrictions. The government thankfully seems to be responding under pressure with a willingness to seriously pursue the concerns and allegations against Pornhub and MindGeek

 

ARPA Canada Recommendations

In Fall 2018, the ARPA Canada team produced a policy report on the issue of pornography which was sent to all MPs and Senators. It made recommendations to address many of the same concerns raised in the New York Times.

Here are a few of those recommendations:

  • That Parliament’s Standing Committee on Health undertake extensive study of the impact of pornography on the health of Canadians, in particular, the factors that heighten risk for dependency and addiction and the effects of exposure to pornography on children and adolescents;
  • That Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights undertake research to determine the relationship between pornography and prostitution and human trafficking and between pornography and other sexual crimes.
  • That Parliament conduct a long-term educational campaign, similar to its anti-bullying initiative, about the harm caused by pornography and the means to protect individuals and families from it;
  • That Parliament amend the Criminal Code to clarify the obscenity provisions so that violent and degrading pornography is clearly illegal to produce, distribute and possess.

“Canada already has legislation prohibiting obscene material. Yet the lack of prosecution and the vagueness of the law permits the proliferation of even the vilest forms of pornography. Just as the federal government has taken a lead in combatting narcotics, bullying and prostitution, it can do the same with combatting pornography.” (ARPA Policy Report on Pornography; Fall 2018)

Our hope is that with your help we can sustain the current pressure on the federal government into 2021. The Canadian government must ensure that organizations like MindGeek do not provide a market either in Canada or internationally for illegal activities like pedophilia, the abuse of children, exploitation of rape victims, and sexual exploitation and trafficking.

 

What Can I Do?

We will keep you posted on any developments in this file. One thing you can do today is sign the petition sponsored by MP Arnold Viersen in the House of Commons asking the government to act to protect young people from exposure to pornography.

 

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