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Pornhub should forget the coronavirus and focus on its own pandemic: revenge porn | Arwa Mahdawi | Opinion

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Italy is facing a shortage of pasta – and a surplus of porn.

More than 60 million people are currently under lockdown in Italy, which is dealing with Europe’s worst outbreak of Covid-19. But where there’s a crisis, there’s also a marketing opportunity. On Thursday Pornhub announced that it is giving everyone in Italy free access to its premium service for the rest of the month. The world’s biggest porn site also said it will donate its March proceeds from Modelhub, one of its adult marketplaces, “to support Italy during this unfortunate time”.

Pornhub’s philanthropic division (yes, it has one) is good at pulling headline-grabbing stunts. It launched a BeeSexual channel to benefit honeybee conservation efforts; it ran a tree-planting scheme called Pornhub Gives America Wood; it tried to clean up plastic-filled beaches with a campaign called Dirtiest Porn Ever.

While Pornhub has clearly given a lot of thought to smutty pun-based philanthropy, it doesn’t seem to have put quite as much effort into ensuring its own business practices are ethical. The site is currently facing serious allegations of profiting from videos of rape and sexual abuse. Almost half a million people have signed an online petition, started by a group called Exodus Cry in the US, demanding that Pornhub be shut down and its executives held accountable for sex trafficking.

“This is a company that is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue and yet they do not have an effective system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts,” the Exodus Cry founder said.

Pornhub vehemently disagrees. In a recent statement to the Guardian, the company said it “has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting non-consensual content and under-age material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate”.

There have been rather a lot of suggestions otherwise. Kate Isaacs, the founder of Not Your Porn campaign, recently wrote a Guardian op-ed detailing how she’d worked with “50 women who were turned into ‘porn stars’ without their permission”. Isaacs notes that some of these women were under 18 “when videos of them were posted on Pornhub without their consent”. It took Pornhub weeks to get a video of one of Isaacs’ friends removed; “When one video had been removed, an identical video with her full name attached would pop back up again.”

Pornhub claims that it is simple for victims of non-consensual porn to request that videos be removed from its website; flagged videos are then “fingerprinted” to prevent future uploads. A recent investigation by Motherboard (part of Vice), however, found that this system can be easily circumvented. The investigation notes that Pornhub’s current method for removing non-consensual porn “not only puts the onus of finding and flagging videos almost entirely on potentially-traumatized victims – those victims can’t even rely on the system to work”.

While Pornhub may argue it has a “steadfast commitment” to eradicating non-consensual content, there’s clearly a lot of room for it to do better. Instead of trying to take on the coronavirus, it would do well to focus on its own pandemic of revenge porn.

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‘Setting my Tinder to Wuhan so I can get the real scoop on what’s going on’

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Sarah Palin raps Baby Got Back dressed as a furry bear

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