Pornhub Is Taking Action Against Makers of Revenge Porn

Pornhub Is Taking Action Against Makers of Revenge Porn

As people in the United States increasingly become aware of revenge porn, the phenomenon in which people post sexually explicit photos or videos without the subject's consent, a battle is raging to stop the dissemination of such content across the Web. 

The adult entertainment website Pornhub is the latest Internet company to put skin in the game to protect victims of revenge porn. On Tuesday, the website introduced an online portal to streamline the reporting and removal process of nonconsensual videos from its pages. 

"With nearly 60 million visitors to Pornhub daily, it's imperative that we remain ahead of this perpetuating victimization of innocent individuals and continue to combat this illicit behavior," said Pornhub vice president Corey Price in a press release. "We will persist in enacting measures that we believe will strongly reinforce Pornhub's stance against revenge porn. We are fully committed to the removal of this type of content from our site, in the pursuit of instilling a sense of safety and community that keeps our users' minds at ease."

A questionable move: To many, Pornhub's effort to remove nonconsensual pornographic content is worthy of commendation. But it's unclear how effective Pornhub's solution will actually be. It can be incredibly difficult to completely erase nonconsensual adult content from the Internet, particularly if it has been posted on multiple sites. 

"We do have an internal team that removes content when content is flagged by our community that violates our terms of service but given our size we can't catch everything," Price told Mic via email. "Unfortunately in some cases, the onus is on the individual to flag something and report it. But now we have made it easier than ever with our streamlined method to report such material and eradicate this pervasive issue." 

Some experts believe that the website's new submission and removal process is not a foolproof way to protect victims of revenge porn. Speaking to Broadly, cybersecurity attorney Elisa D'Amico pointed out that giving victims the tool to report instances of abuse doesn't kill the issue at its root. Because Pornhub relies on user-submitted content, people can still upload whatever content they want to the site, even if it's removed a few hours later.

"Although we have found some ways to help manage the necessary cleanup following a sexual cyberharassment incident, even with an online removal form, the process still involves manual labor and a significant amount of time," D'Amico told Broadly. "It is much akin to a game of whack-a-mole, or trying to herd fruit flies."

Yet Pornhub says it has seen a 38% drop in revenge porn takedown requests in the last two years, which could suggest the trend is slowing down in light of heightened legal ramifications. A total of 26 states have already passed laws to regulate nonconsensual digital content, according to online civil rights initiative End Revenge Porn, and last year Israel officially criminalized nonconsensual content. 

Although the United States government has yet to pass blanket legislation banning revenge porn, some have speculated that nationwide legislation is pending. The lack of sweeping legal protections for revenge porn victims has encouraged many corporations and individuals to join the fight for cyber rights. 

In June, for instance, Google tweaked its search algorithm to surface less content potentially linked to victims of revenge porn. Actress Jennifer Lawrence took a stand against revenge porn in December, and in February, Danish journalist Emma Holten purposefully published her own nude photos after an ex-boyfriend leaked them without her consent. 

"Feminism played a very large part in me gaining some ground in the time following the initial release of the non-consensual pictures," Holten told Mic in February. "A lot of this shame is strongly internalized, and I found it extremely helpful to understand that my body had become part of a system, and that the way I was being treated had a name: misogyny. This made it much easier for me to cope, since I came to understand that this issue wasn't personal but systemic."

Pornhub's recent announcement might not necessarily put an end to revenge porn for good. But by taking a stand against people posting pornographic videos without the subjects' consent, the website is sending a powerful message that such acts will no longer be tolerated. 

Oct. 15, 2015, 2:55 p.m.: This story has been updated.