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More than 30 women accuse Pornhub of profiting from sexual abuse videos in new lawsuit

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MONTREAL —
A new lawsuit filed in the U.S. against MindGeek, the Montreal-based owner of online porn giant Pornhub, is asking that the case be tried before a jury over allegations the website allowed child pornography and other illegal videos to be posted to the Internet.

The suit was filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court in California on behalf of 34 women from Canada, Thailand, the U.S. and several other countries who allege videos of them were uploaded to Pornhub, the world’s largest porn site, without their consent, and in some cases, when they were minors.

(The full text of the complaint is posted below).

MindGeek, which operates Pornhub and several other porn sites, is headquartered in Montreal and takes in billions of dollars in revenue from the content uploaded to its site.

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The lawsuit alleges MindGeek operates like “a classic criminal enterprise” headed by co-owners Feras Antoon, a Canadian resident, and Berg Bergmair who go to great lengths to shield themselves from the public eye and profit from videos of non-consensual acts and sexual assaults by allowing users to upload them to Pornhub, MindGeek’s flagship website.

The porn enterprise responds to threats of exposure with smear campaigns against critics and internet hacking to conceal its criminal activities, including: “human trafficking; child pornography; criminal copyright piracy; internet hacking, stalking, and doxing; blackmail and extortion; mail and wire fraud; embezzlement, bank and creditor fraud; tax evasion; and money laundering,” the lawsuit alleges.

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Several disturbing allegations are included in the suit about women finding videos of themselves on Pornhub without their consent.

In one case, a woman alleged she was raped when she was 22 after being given a date rape drug at a party in 2017 and a video of the attack was uploaded to Pornhub without her knowledge.

After demanding that the video be taken down, the lawsuit claims “Pornhub misrepresented that without a url code, title, or link there was no way for them to identify the video to remove it.”

“To this day, Jane Doe No. 15 continues to be recognized in public, harassed, and called a ‘slut’ or a ‘whore.’ This experience has caused Jane Doe No. 15 to suffer from severe depression and anxiety.”

In another case, one plaintiff alleged she discovered a video of her online that shows that her now ex-husband had drugged her, sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious and uploaded a recording of the incident to Pornhub and other sites.

The woman’s former husband was charged in June 2021, according to the lawsuit, with sexual assault and distributing intimate images without consent.

The lawsuit alleges that the woman asked that the video be taken down and had to get the police involved. While the video was removed three days after contacting law enforcement, copies of the video spread elsewhere on the web.

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“In addition, MindGeek added Jane Doe No. 14’s video to its affiliated sites as a cheap way of adding additional content and driving traffic. Of the 1,900 search results, Pornhub was the source for all of the active videos,” the lawsuit alleged.

MINDGEEK RESPONDS TO ALLEGATIONS

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been tested or proven in court.

Pornhub announced last December it has banned video uploads from unverified users. In a written statement to CTV News Thursday, MindGeek said it is currently reviewing and investigating the lawsuit.

“Pornhub has zero tolerance for illegal content and investigates any complaint or allegation made about content on our platforms,” the statement stated.

“The allegations in today’s complaint that Pornhub is a criminal enterprise that traffics women and is run like ‘The Sopranos’ are utterly absurd, completely reckless and categorically false.”

Pornhub also doubled down on Michael J. Bowe, the U.S. lawyer representing the 34 women in the lawsuit, accusing him of being “a soldier of the ultra-right wing effort to shut down the adult content industry.”

“We stand resolutely with all victims of internet-related abuse. Pornhub takes every complaint regarding the abuse of its platform seriously, including those of the plaintiffs in this case,” the company’s statement said.

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LAWYER WANTS TO SEE MINDGEEK EXECS IN COURT

In an interview with CTV News on Thursday, Bowe said he denies the accusation that he’s on a mission to end porn.

“Adult entertainment is legitimate entertainment, it’s a legitimate business, it’s protected by the First Amendment here in the United States, but it needs to be between two consenting adults,” he said Thursday.

“And there should be no place for systemic appearances of underage pornography, rape videos, or anything like that.”

He said it’s time for the owners of MindGeek to “come into a courtroom and be confronted by these 34 women.”

The lawsuit was filed on the same day a parliamentary committee released a report into its study of Pornhub.

Among the recommendations in the House of Commons ethics committee report is that the federal government hold online platforms liable for failing to prevent the upload, or ensure the timely removal, of child sexual abuse or non-consensual content.

The committee also recommended that the government make changes to the Mandatory Reporting Act to make the National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre the designated law enforcement agency to handle reports of child sexual abuse materials.

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