Free porn site service during coronavirus raises fear of sex trafficking

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LONDON, Mar 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Critics of one of the world’s largest porn sites criticized its offer to stream its service for free, a move they felt seeks to capitalize on the coronavirus crisis and silence complaints that videos on their platform present victims of sex trafficking.

Pornhub, a platform for streaming sexual content, has come under fire for allegedly failing to remove images and videos of child rape and sexual abuse on the site, which it denies.

An online petition to shutdown the site, which had more than 42 billion visits in 2019, has now garnered more than half a million signatures.

After cities around the world were quarantined this week to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Pornhub said it would allow users to view its core product for free for 30 days, with traffic increasing 11.6%. worldwide since the pandemic confined people to their homes.

“Pornhub (…) will offer Pornhub Premium to everyone in an effort to encourage the importance of staying home and practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Data from the site showed that a free trial offered to Europe before it went global this week had increased traffic by 57% in Italy, the European country most affected by the coronavirus, 38% in France and 61% in Spain. .

However, along with more clicks, new complaints have emerged about the video-sharing platform and questions about whether all content available online is consensual.

Pornhub, owned by MindGeek, which is based in Luxembourg, denies the allegations of knowingly publishing any content that is sexually abusive and rejects calls for stricter regulation.

“The steps we take make us much more regulated than any other major user-generated platform,” said a Pornhub spokesperson. “Any accusation that we are not taking this seriously is categorically false.”

Pornhub denied as “categorically false” any suggestion that there is evidence of sexual trafficking on the site.

However, critics have expressed concern that the site is open to abuse and exploitation, and increased traffic could exacerbate it.

“They are making a lot more money and getting a lot more traffic,” said Laila Mickelwait, director of the anti-trafficking religious organization Exodus Cry, who published the petition aimed at shutting down Pornhub. “There will be more exploitation, there will be more demand, more users and then more videos uploaded to the site.”

The platform allows anyone with an account to post content, which is then verified by human moderators and automated technologies.

Women’s rights experts have urged governments to tighten regulation to tackle online abuse and accused Pornhub of failing to remove content quickly enough when it is reported.

“Therefore, it is important that governments implement strict laws that impose a duty of care on technology platforms,” ​​said Tsitsi Matekaire, who runs a program to end sex trafficking at women’s rights group Equality Now.

(Report by Amber Milne; Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida; The Thomson Reuters Foundation is a unit of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, human rights, gender equality and climate change issues. Visit http: // news.trust.org for more articles.)

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