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Pornhub Execs Show “Staggering Recklessness” During Canadian Hearing


They say that “actions speak louder than words.” Well in Pornhub/MindGeek’s case, both are speaking loud and clear.

For the first time since the Traffickinghub campaign began last February, MindGeek COO David Marmorstein Tassillo and MindGeek Canada CEO Feras Antoon were forced to respond publicly to the evidence of child sexual abuse material (CSAM), rape, and non-consenual content that’s been rampant on their platforms.

As part of a Canadian investigation, for over two hours, Members of the Canadian Parliament grilled the executives on a variety of topics, questioning their weak moderation practices, their controversial “download button,” why the company was allowing illegal content, and why the recent changes didn’t happen much sooner.

Given what we know about MindGeek, Pornhub’s parent company, the answers provided by these executives were predictably awful. The questions from the Members of Parliament were met with polished denials, avoidance tactics, and at times outright defiance to facts.

Why then is MindGeek blatantly ignoring tags that are used for rape… underage children…. the tag CP [child porn]… and tags ‘middleschooler,’ ‘young boy,’ and ‘boy’?

A consistent theme of the proceedings was a complete refusal to acknowledge any fault or admit any responsibility. This was especially evident when pressed on why they waited until December of 2020 to make meaningful changes regarding their content.

At one point, MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith asked, “Is it fair to say, if these changes were put into place years ago, that this instance [underage girl being victimized] wouldn’t have happened and Girls Do Porn wouldn’t have happened… do you think that’s fair?”

Mr Antoon’s response was of course defiant, disagreeing with facts, denying fault, and refusing to admit their negligence played a starring role in those crimes. His only admission was that they could “improve.” Keep in mind, these are allegations that in the past they referred to as “conspiracy theories.”

Member Jag Sahota called MindGeek’s moderating into question and asked “Why then is MindGeek blatantly ignoring tags that are used for rape… underage children…. the tag CP [child porn]… and tags ‘middleschooler,’ ‘young boy,’ and ‘boy’?” Their search terms and tags were called into question on a few occasions, but were met with lame attempts by the executives to squirm away from the heat.

These are questions we have raised for the last year, but neither Mr. Antoon or Mr. Tassillo would provide any clarity or substantive answer. Their only response was to point to recent changes and “respectfully disagree” with the members’ questions.

Mr. Antoon was specifically asked what he would like to say to the underage victims who were abused on their platform. He claimed that he was “heartbroken,” yet never actually issued any apology. Instead, he callously defended their commitment to being a safe platform.

Screenshot of a tweet from PornHub

When Tassillo apologized for not having a statistic on hand about how many victims reached out to Pornhub, MP Erskin-Smith shot back “It’s a worthwhile apology although… when I asked you what you would say to victims I would’ve expected an apology there too.

But instead of apologizing, they suggested to the panel that they were “industry leaders” when it came to moderating online content. They consistently touted their failed moderating process and recent safeguards to the site even though those changes just occurred in the last few weeks. In fact, the changes they made were not a product of goodwill, but because Visa and Mastercard refused to process payments for them. This gives further credence to the fact that all these “leaders” really care about is money.

And let’s talk about money for a moment, because Mr. Tassillo and Mr. Antoon dodged questions around their organizational structure, corporate revenue, personal income, and taxes. They pretended not to know how much money their company made last year, and didn’t feel discussing their personal income was “appropriate.” I have to say, it was an interesting experience hearing about ethics from people who peddle CSAM for profit.

They were also asked questions about how many complaints they received in 2020, and targeted questions around specific cases involving underage girls and non-consensual content. Each time they skirted the question and claimed ignorance. Several members expressed shock and dismay at the lack of substance Antoon and Tassillo brought to the committee and their aloof attitude while answering.

You guys have failed… in terms of your filters and your ability to respond to concerns that have been put to you by minors, because in no way should that content be on the internet… and it shouldn’t be on your site.

In answering one question around former employees’ claims of unethical behavior by management, Mr. Antoon claimed that “media articles are not facts” that “journalists write whatever they want” and defended his company stating “there’s no secrecy at MindGeek.”

Which begs the question, if there are no secrets at MindGeek, why did they feel the need to use fake names in their public correspondence? MindGeek VP Corey Urman actually admitted as much. Yet they felt no need to conceal the real identities of the victims in the videos they hosted. Once again, MindGeek only uses discretion when it protects their own interests.

Perhaps the most common answer uttered from these men was “I don’t have that information handy.” It was clear that these executives had no intention of divulging any details about their organization and consistently obfuscated the truth about the past and present business operations, their finances and structure, as well as their safeguarding policies.

Lastly, and most importantly, they appeared to criminally implicate themselves in violating Canada’s criminal code with regard to reporting requirements and knowingly distributing CSAM. Pornhub executives Antoon and Tassillo doubled-down on their claim that every video uploaded to Pornhub is reviewed by their team of human moderators. This means that they knowingly allowed CSAM to be uploaded to the site, streamed it, and distributed it to the public via their infamous download button.

As Member Charlie Angus pointed out, this means they potentially violated Section 163-3 of Canada’s child pornography law, which carries a 14-year sentence. This is a criminal issue for which they should be charged, and ultimately banned from continued operations.

As we have continually stated, MindGeek has failed the most basic of standards in terms of ethics and legality, and have proven both in their actions and now their words, that they are either unable or unwilling to self-regulate.

In the words of Member Francisco Sorbara “you guys have failed… in terms of your filters and your ability to respond to concerns that have been put to you by minors, because in no way should that content be on the internet… and it shouldn’t be on your site.”

Member Angus added that the executives displayed “a staggering level of recklessness.”

As the Canadian parliamentary investigation continues, it’s clear that MindGeek has a long road ahead of them. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against them in both the US and Canada. An Ontario woman is suing the company for $600 million for sexual abuse she suffered at age 12 that was filmed and shared on Pornhub.1

Traffickinghub campaign founder Laila Mickelwait also tweeted news of a major class action suit, involving two minors, filed by six different US law firms against MindGeek for child sex trafficking. In this suit, a jury trial was demanded.2

These recent events are the proof of what happens when people raise their unified voices and demand justice. Victims who have once been tossed aside and marginalized by “Big Porn,” have become emboldened to step forward and tell their story. It’s the courage of these victims that has put this criminal enterprise and its executives on the brink of ruin.

In 2021, we’re continuing to focus our resources on pushing for Pornhub/MindGeek to be held fully accountable for their crimes and we’re providing specialized trauma therapy for Pornhub’s victims. Your gift can help bring both victory and healing.

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Footnotes

  • https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2021/01/08/pornhub-owner-facing-proposed-600-million-class-action-lawsuit-from-ontario-woman.html
  • https://endsexualexploitation.org/wp-content/uploads/Doe-v.-MindGeek_Complaint.pdf
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