Amid crackdown, platform seeks govt help to make ’porn normal and boring’

In a recent interview, Pornhub owners said that the governments should stop cracking down on porn and instead take pride in sexual expressions and try to make porn ‘boring’

Livemint
First Published25 Jun 2023, 01:06 PM IST
Owners of the Pornhub in an interview said that the governments should stop cracking down on porn and rather try to make it 'boring'
Owners of the Pornhub in an interview said that the governments should stop cracking down on porn and rather try to make it ’boring’

Instead of cracking down on porn websites, governments should take pride in sexual expression and help to make porn normal and ‘boring’, said the new owner of Pornhub in an AFP interview.

In his interview he said that the society has moved to a direction where people are proud of sexual expression. 

“I think society has moved in the direction where we are proud of sexual expression,” said Ethical Capital Partners' Solomon Friedman. “The fact that it's adult is going to be boring, just like the fact that (legalised) cannabis in Canada has become boring,” he added.

Months ago, Porhnub's parent firm MindGeek was bought by a Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners (ECP). The move made ECP the sole controller of other sites including YouPorn. Recently, ECP founder Solomon Friedman talked openly in an interview with AFP about the problem his company faced after the acquisition and what all it had done to remove sexually abusive and violent content on its websites.

Underage porn sites users main concern for governments

Notably, most of its websites faced action in different countries because of a wide number of its underage audience and a large content related to sexual violence and abuse.

Soon after the acquisition, ECP ended up in a sea of legal troubles. Several of its websites were pulled from the US state of Utah in May after they were ordered to verify the ages of users.

In France, website owners and regulators have been locked in talks for months on how to make a 2020 age verification law work in practice. Two of MindGeek's sites have not put in place any age verification and face a court ruling on July 7 that could ban them.

Solomon Friedman made it clear in the AFP interview that the company doesn't want any underage users on its websites. “We do not want any underage users on our websites whatsoever,” ECP founder Solomon Friedman told AFP.

However, he pushed back on the idea that responsibility should not only lie on the websites. Instead he demanded for the operating systems to find a solution.

"We are strongly in support of age verification solutions that do two things: protect children effectively and do not expose personal data," he said. 

"The only solution that accomplishes both of these goals is device or browser-based verification," he said, adding that it would be "a very simple step for Google and Apple".

High content of rapes and minor sex on porn websites

Other major problem for MindGeek was the presence of a vast material related to rapes and minor sex on the websites.

The company got into hot water in 2020 when the New York Times published allegations that its sites were hosting material depicting rapes and sex involving minors. The article sparked heavy pressure from regulators in several countries and Visa and MasterCard stopped processing payments.

The owners spent two years trying to sell the firm, which is largely based in Canada but has a complex corporate structure spanning many of the globe's tax havens, with its official headquarters in Luxembourg.

The new owners of the company include two lawyers, an ex-police officer and an Italian investor who made his fortune in the legal sale of cannabis. The investors are keen to distance themselves from the New York Times allegations.

Friedman claimed that his company has taken massive steps to limit the content related to rape and minor sex in website. He boaseted that eight million pieces of content had been taken down in 2021 -- a claim AFP cannot verify. 

'We review it after its removed,' says Pornhub owner

Friedman also emphasised on the company-owned websites' mechanism where a content removal request automatically results in removal of the content immediately. He made it clear that the website "reviews it after it's removed."

He also said that uploaders had to provide identification, all content was scanned by algorithms to filter out copyright-protected material, and it is then viewed by company staff before it hits the web. 

Solomon said his firm was brought in initially only to check that MindGeek was working within the law. "And what we found is not only does it comply with the law but it was an extraordinary investing opportunity, but it's an opportunity that required specialised skills," he said.  After discovering the investment opportunity in the website, ECP bought it and it has been a rough ride for the company since then.

The Utah exit followed an early battle in Louisiana, which has a similar age verification law. Solomon said their sites were still online in Louisiana as the rules are slightly different -- they are not required to collect personal information.

He said he did not want to prejudge any outcomes in France, but could not rule out the possibility his sites would have to pull out. In France, the issue became a political agenda after President Emmanuel Macron's commitment to reduce the exposure of porn content to children in France.

(With AFP inputs)

 

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First Published:25 Jun 2023, 01:06 PM IST
HomeNewsworldAmid crackdown, platform seeks govt help to make ’porn normal and boring’

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