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Pornhub Removes Majority of Videos in a Victory for Exodus Cry

But the fight against exploitation continues with new momentum from a Nicholas Kristof investigation.
Pornhub Removes Majority of Videos in a Victory for Exodus Cry
Image: Ethan Miller /Getty Images

The anti-trafficking ministry Exodus Cry is celebrating significant progress in its fight to take down the world’s largest porn site, Pornhub, which announced Monday that it had pulled millions of unverified videos. It said the move could represent “one of the most significant actions ever taken against criminal porn.”

Exodus Cry’s long campaign against Pornhub recently got a major boost from a December 4 investigation by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, which has spurred political and economic fallout for the site.

Kristof’s exposé detailed what the ministry’s director of abolition, Laila Mickelwait, had been saying through its Traffickinghub campaign for years: Videos of assault involving underage girls, rape, and other exploitative content continue to be posted and reposted on the user-generated porn site, and the company is not doing enough to stop it.

The story led to new scrutiny by politicians in the US and Canada, where Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, is based. Pornhub executives have been called to testify in Parliament in Ottawa, and Christian senators Josh Hawley and Ben Sasse introduced a bill last week giving victims more legal ground to fight back against sites like Pornhub when clips and images are distributed online without their consent.

Sasse has also called for a Justice Department investigation, telling National Reviewlast Thursday, “Just the other day Pornhub was insisting that it didn’t have a problem with rape and assault videos and that its ‘vast team of human moderators’ was magically working around the clock to review the 2.8 hours of video that were uploaded to the site every minute. Today, they’re doing a complete 180 by changing their policies. These new changes underscore the need for a full DOJ investigation.”

Discover, Visa, and Mastercard announced last week that they would no longer process payments from the site due to the unlawful material uploaded. Pornhub’s decision to remove and ban unverified uploads applies to an estimated two-thirds of the videos hosted on its site, with the site’s own search tally dropping from 13.5 million to 4.7 million overnight, according to Vice.

An announcement on Pornhub claims it has better policies than other platforms and blames Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation for targeting the site.“These are organizations dedicated to abolishing pornography, banning material they claim is obscene, and shutting down commercial sex work.”

Exodus Cry has framed its efforts around a fight around the scriptural call to “set the captives free,” seeing pornography and prostitution as an issue of exploitation and abuse of power, not just sexual sin.

Founder and CEO Benjamin Nolot was a former member of the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, and the ministry grew out of IHOP in 2008. As World reported last month, Exodus Cry’s perceived evangelical and political ties recently cost them a pledge from actress Melissa McCarthy.

Its Traffickinghub campaign, though, is branded as a “non-religious, non-partisan effort.” Traffickinghub creates videos with stats about Pornhub content and shares stories of teenage victims who fought to get their rapes removed from the site. The campaign is pushing for apologies and restitution for the girls and women who have been traumatized.

“Justice for your victims will not be denied Pornhub,” Mickelwait tweeted Monday. “Hitting the delete button to scrub the crime scene videos from your site doesn’t absolve you of the decade of harm you caused to countless victims whose trauma you immortalized for your own profit. This is a reckoning.”

Mickelwait has repeatedly praised Kristof for his article as well as the companies and officials who have responded, but the work of Traffickinghub and Exodus Cry continues.

“I’m so inspired, more than I ever have been, but it’s not enough,” she said. “Justice means shutting this site down and holding its executives criminally accountable for what they have done, and we will stop at nothing less.”

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