Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek have been on the hot seat both internationally and domestically for hosting and profiting from heinous crimes such as rape, CSAM, sex trafficking, and non-consensual material1https://defenddignity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/2020-APPG-NR-canadian-victims-of-pornhub-les-victimes-canadiennes-de-pornhub.pdf . MindGeek is facing several lawsuits, service suspensions from credit card providers2https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/calls-for-criminal-investigation-mindgeek-1.5937117 and an investigation by the House of Commons Ethics Committee3https://www.ourcommons.ca/Committees/en/ETHI/StudyActivity?studyActivityId=11088039. Hundreds of survivors, advocates4https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/432/ETHI/Brief/BR11139175/br-external/CollectiveOf104Survivors525Non-GovernmentOrganisationsFrom65Countries-e.pdf, and elected officials5https://defenddignity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/EN-Mar-2021-Letter-to-RCMP-re-Mindgeek-Final.pdf continue to call on the RCMP to launch a full criminal investigation.
On Monday April 12th, 2021, the Ethics Committee questioned Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Justice Minister David Lametti, and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. According to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) and the U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), MindGeek failed to report CSAM between 2011-20206https://defenddignity.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/EN-Mar-2021-Letter-to-RCMP-re-Mindgeek-Final.pdf. On Monday Ms. Lucki confirmed that MindGeek told the RCMP in 2018 that the Mandatory Reporting Act doesn’t apply to them. All three witnesses maintained that MindGeek’s complex structure has made enforcing Canadian laws a challenge, with the question of jurisdiction at the center of the debate. The RCMP is currently reviewing whether it will launch a criminal investigation.
Amid all this it’s essential that we don’t lose sight of what we do know.
- MindGeek has an office in Montreal
- MindGeek has around 1,800 employees, 1,000 of whom work in Montreal
- MindGeek executives Feras Antoon and David Tassillo are Canadians and live in Montreal
- MindGeek has participated in crimes committed against Canadians
- MindGeek has distributed CSAM and non-consensual intimate images
- MindGeek has failed to report CSAM for nearly a decade
While the application of the Mandatory Reporting Act is being debated, Canada still has robust laws against distributing non-consensual intimate images and CSAM in sections 162 and 163 of the Criminal Code7https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/page-37.html#docCont . There are also other reasons to believe that MindGeek is liable under Canadian law. For example, on April 13th Mr. Angus told the House of Commons that a large Californian court case against Pornhub identifies MindGeek as being based in Montreal8https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=dGKGUPNoRVE. If lawsuits can use MindGeek’s Montreal address, why can’t a criminal investigation? In addition, Daniel Bernhard, executive director of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, testified to the committee on February 22nd9https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/ETHI/meeting-21/evidence#Int-11143591 about a comprehensive legal analysis his organization released in 2020:
“…Our research is clear. In Canada, platforms are already liable for circulating illegal user-generated content. Why hasn’t the Pornhub case led to charges?…This is a basic question of law and order and of Canada’s sovereignty over its media industries. It is an urgent question. Canadian children, young women and girls cannot wait for a new law and neither should we.”10https://friends.ca/workspace/uploads/documents/platform-for-harm-2020-friends.pdf?utm_source=friends&utm_campaign=short-url&utm_medium=organic&utm_content=platformforharm
We must ensure that survivor’s voices are not forgotten while ministers and law enforcement dance around jurisdictions. The Ethics Committee has heard from various witnesses about the ongoing struggle they have faced in trying to get MindGeek to remove the videos of their abuse. Once they finally succeed, the same videos often get uploaded again and again in a traumatic cycle.
Survivors have testified on February 1st11https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/ETHI/meeting-18/evidence and February 19th12https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/ETHI/meeting-20/evidence:
“I too feel like Pornhub has become my human trafficker, and they have been relentless in doing so.”
“A lot of the men felt entitled to me once they’d seen me on Pornhub. When I didn’t want to speak to them, they would try to blackmail me or threaten me even more. Even now, I have some of the same people from 2018 still trying to contact me…The videos would get hundreds of thousands of views and contained my personal information, including my address and my family’s social media.”
“There were instances where the video would have literally 2.7 million views, and it would still be on Pornhub despite hundreds of comments saying, ‘Oh, this is definitely child pornography. That girl can’t be any more than 14 or 13.’ ”
It’s time to stand with survivors as they seek justice. Furthermore, it’s time to prevent these horrible crimes from happening in the first place. It is crucial for Canada to make a strong statement that these egregious crimes will not be tolerated. We thank the RCMP for their work to combat sexual exploitation and for reviewing this matter. We continue to urge them to launch a full criminal investigation into MindGeek and to urge lawmakers to ensure the Criminal Code is protecting Canadians from online sexual exploitation.
Have you been victimized on a pornography site ? Canadians can access legal assistance here.
Spread awareness by watching and sharing this W5 Episode.
Check out our page on Pornhub/MindGeek to learn more.
We’re discussing MindGeek in this blog, but it’s important to note that these crimes are happening on other platforms as well. Check out Nikolas Kristoff’s latest article.