The woman waging war on Big Porn

Both countries and companies have taken advantage of the misery of the Covid-19 pandemic, the lockdowns, the loneliness and the misery of millions to burnish their image. China has donated masks and ventilators; companies have offered free stuff like online yoga lessons, audiobooks, museum tours, movies and software. Great PR!

But the most audacious offering must be free porn from Pornhub, a website which gets 42 billion visits every year – 120 million a day. Its premium service, normally US$9.99 a month, was free worldwide in April. “With nearly one billion people in lockdown across the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that we lend a hand and provide them with an enjoyable way to pass the time,” Pornhub Vice President's Corey Price explained.

In its charm offensive, Pornhub has also donated tens of thousands of masks in the United States and Europe. But there’s nothing charming about the world’s best-known site for on-line pornography. MercatorNet interviewed Laila Mickelwait, a activist against sex trafficking, about her campaign to take the site down because of its human rights abuses.


You have been campaigning against Pornhub, the world’s largest platform for free pornography for years. How does the site work?

Laila Mickelwait: Pornhub is a tube site where users upload pornographic content, much of which consists of actual sexual crimes against women and children. It is the world's most popular porn website, and hidden in plain site are the horrific torture, rape, abuse and assaults of some of the most vulnerable women and children, all for the profit of Pornhub and the pleasure of its users.

What sort of stuff can you see there?

There is a spectrum of sexual crimes that Pornhub profits from and enables on the website -- the rape, trafficking and sexual abuse of children; the rape, assault, and trafficking of women; spycam recordings of sex acts and nude girls who don't know they are being filmed, revenge videos, filmed prostitution, and more.

So who moderates the uploads?

Based on what we know about the egregious crimes on Pornhub, there is a serious question about how Pornhub has enabled this to happen for so long. For example, the Internet Watch Foundation, in only two years investigated and confirmed 118 cases of child sexual abuse on Pornhub, half of which they said were Category A level abuse that includes penetration and/or sadism.

If Pornhub has human moderators, are they viewing the real rape and torture of children and then giving those videos a green light to be uploaded, profited off of, and used as masturbation material for millions upon millions of users?

From what you are saying, the word Pornhub is just about synonymous with “exploitation”. Are there any “clean” pornography businesses – without exploitation?

Pornhub is a website that is infested with the real rape and sex trafficking of women and minors. Pornography consumers need to be aware that when they visit Pornhub or any of the other websites that Pornhub's parent company Mindgeek owns, they are also complicit in these crimes by creating the demand that keeps these websites incredibly profitable for those that own them.

Consumers need to be aware of the role that they play in this mass abuse and they should make the informed choice not to perpetuate these crimes against women and children by visiting Pornhub.

How is your petition going? I understand that hundreds of thousands of people have signed it. What are you attempting to achieve?

I launched the petition on February 10, at the moment we have over 860,000 signatures and counting. The goal is to shut down Pornhub and hold its executives accountable for complicity in the sex trafficking and rape of women and children. (Click here to sign the petition.)

It’s widely believed that watching pornography might be tasteless and embarrassing, but no one gets hurt. Your comments?

We have hard evidence that Pornhub is a website profiting from massive amounts of harm against the most vulnerable in society.

There was recently a 15 year old girl from Florida who was missing for a year and found after 58 videos of her sexual exploitation and rape were found on Pornhub. There was also the story of Rose Kalemba, who at 14 years old was taken at knifepoint, raped for 12 hours and her videos uploaded to Pornhub. Rose says that she begged Pornhub for months to remove the videos of her torture and assault and it wasn't until she as a teenager posed as a lawyer and threatened legal action, that they finally removed the videos of this child.

Recently a Sunday Times investigation also found "dozens" of illegal exploitation videos on Pornhub within "minutes" including abuse images of a child as young as three years old. Many are deceived into believing that everyone in the videos on Pornhub are "consenting adults" but we know from the evidence that is simply not true.

Pornhub seems like a wily antagonist with a powerful legal and public relations department. Do you really think that you can bring it down?

Of course we can shut down Pornhub, because we are strong when we stand up against this giant together.

It is not only myself calling for action. Right now there are almost 1 million other individuals raising their voices with me calling for Pornhub to be shut down and its executives held accountable for enabling and profiting from the rape and trafficking of women and children. We also have 300 of some of the most respected child protection, anti-trafficking and women's rights organizations around the world endorsing the campaign. Victims are coming forward and politicians in multiple countries are formally demanding federal investigations of Pornhub for complicity in sex trafficking.

This effort to shut down Pornhub and hold its executives accountable is a global movement now, and the tidal wave that is surging will soon gain enough force to accomplish the goal.

How did you get involved in this campaign?

I have spent over a decade combatting sex trafficking and the last eight years investigating the intersection between the pornography industry and sex trafficking. Anyone who researches this issue will end up on Pornhub (on any of the other Mindgeek owned porn-tube sites) because it is the primary way the world is accessing porn today.

What I found out in doing so is that Pornhub is set up for exploitation. Pornhub is a trafficker and pedophile's paradise and it needs to be shut down.


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