Pornhub implements new rules as backlash intensifies over sex trafficking concerns

The site announced it would allow only "properly identified users" to upload content.

Pornhub issued a series of new restrictions on user experience Tuesday as it faced backlash over an explosive report on underage sex trafficking victims being exploited on its platform.

"At Pornhub, nothing is more important than the safety of our community," a statement from the company read. "Our core values such as inclusivity, freedom of expression and privacy are only possible when our platform is trusted by our users. This is why we have always been committed to eliminating illegal content, including non-consensual material and child sexual abuse material."

The streaming giant announced, among other things, that it would only allow "properly identified users" to upload content on the site. It also announced it would ban downloads and expand moderation on the site. 

While the site has faced scrutiny in the past, the criticism seemed to intensify after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof detailed multiple allegations of sexual exploitation on the platform.

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One of those victims, a woman identified as "Nicole," claimed underage videos of her naked were posted to the site. She reportedly told Pornhub: “You really need a better system. … I tried to kill myself multiple times after finding myself reuploaded on your website."

In a statement to Fox News last week, Pornhub denied allowing child sexual abuse material on its platform.

"Any assertion that we allow CSAM is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue," a statement from the company read referring to child sexual abuse material. "We have zero tolerance for CSAM. Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating CSAM, and has instituted an industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community."

Its newest rules came amid renewed scrutiny in the Senate and as major credit card companies said they would investigate the platform's activities.

However, Dani Pinter, Nicole's attorney at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, maintains that the platform can't be trusted even with its new policies.

"I don't trust them at all to do what they're saying they're going to do -- first of all," she said. "And secondly, it's really irrelevant because there's nothing new that has come to light to them. We have at the national center have been talking about all of these issues for years -- specifically targeting Pornhub."

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She also pointed to activist Laila Mickelwait's work calling out the company, including a massive petition which received 2.1 million signatures backing her call to shut down the platform.

"People have been directly asking Pornhub to respond for months on end so clearly this is nothing but self-preservation and gaslighting," Pinter said.

Pornhub did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.

Pinter intends to bring civil litigation, leveraging an exception to the legal immunity typically granted to platforms like Pornhub. In 2018, President Trump signed legislation that blocked sites from using Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a defense for several sex trafficking offenses, regardless of whether they materially contributed to the unlawful conduct. It specifically aims to hold platforms accountable if they knowingly facilitate sex trafficking.

While the scope of that exception is unclear, Pinter is contending it applies to platforms that "should have known" about trafficking content.

For months, Pornhub has been fending off criticism like Pinter's and faced a petition with 2.1 million signatures calling for the site to be shut down. At the congressional level, the company faced backlash from lawmakers like Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who called on the Justice Department to investigate the company.

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Last week, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., also vowed to introduce legislation that would grant sex trafficking victims a federal right to sue Pornhub.

As part of Pornhub's new policies, it pledged to release a transparency report on its content moderation from 2020.

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The company noted that the Internet Watch Foundation, which identifies child sexual abuse imagery online, reportedly found 118 incidents of videos on Pornhub containing child sexual abuse or rape between 2017 and 2019. Emma Hardy, an IWF spokeswoman, also said that other commonly-used sites "pose more of an issue of child sexual abuse material than Pornhub does."

It's unclear how many incidents Pornhub found on its own. A spokesperson previously pointed Fox News to self-reported data from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram showing much higher numbers for enforcement actions taken against child sexual content. But when asked for Pornhub's internal data on its own enforcement actions, the company didn't provide any. Instead, it suggested Fox News should ask IWF about its findings regarding the other three platforms.