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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Pornhub removes all unverified videos, is now much less porny and not such a hub

Illustration for article titled Pornhub removes all unverified videos, is now much less porny and not such a hub
Photo: Gabe Ginsberg / Contributor (Getty Images)

Pornhub has removed millions of videos from its library as part of a new policy that bans unverified users from uploading content to the site—a change that dramatically alters the way the site has operated since its founding in 2007. Vice reports that all videos not uploaded by “official content partners or members of its model program” have been suspended, a change that means its library has been reduced by nearly 80 percent. Prior to the change, the site hosted approximately 13.5 million videos; at the time of this writing, according to a private browser window that we did honestly have to open for work, there are currently 2.9 million videos on the site.

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Per Vice:

“As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now also suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program,” according to Pornhub’s announcement. “This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders, a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to institute.”

Pornhub said the videos will be removed pending verification and review, and the verification process will begin in the new year. Prior to this change, anyone could create an account on Pornhub and upload any video they wanted to, since the platform’s launch in 2007.

About that “policy to ban unverified uploaders”: On December 4, the New York Times published a piece in its opinion section under the headline “The Children Of Pornhub,” which (again, from Vice) “followed the lives of child sexual abuse victims whose videos were uploaded to the platform.” This led to Mastercard and Visa announcing that they’d investigate potentially unlawful material hosted on the site, which in turn led Pornhub to institute that policy change. Mastercard and Visa both opted to drop the site completely, with Visa also choosing to drop all MindGeek sites, a group which includes not only Pornhub but also Redtube and Youporn, among others.

While “child pornography and sex trafficking are bad” doesn’t seem like a statement that demands a lot of additional nuance, it should be noted that this issue is more complex than it might seem at first glance. (Again, Vice’s piece includes some valuable additional context. It’s worth your click.) An advocacy organization called Mastercard and Visa’s decision “a war on sex workers”:

“We say ‘war against sex workers’ because the damage they do does not impact the labor as much as it affects the laborers who depend on the Pornhub platform to earn a living,” it wrote. “[...] Violence against sex workers includes the societal and institutional violence that has led to the shuttering of our online platforms that give us a measure of safety and allow us the critical resource that is the ability to access banking.”

There’s still more complexity in considering what the practical effects of the new policy will be. Here’s one more excerpt from Vice:

While Pornhub’s decision to stop unverified users from sharing videos on its site could greatly reduce abuse on its platform, it’s not a guaranteed method to stop all abuse. Pornhub continued to host Girls Do Porn and even promoted it as a “Pornhub Content Partner” while it was being sued by 22 of the women for fraud, emotional distress damages, and misappropriation of their likeness, and after a Motherboard investigation showed Pornhub was being used to dox and harass the women in the videos. Pornhub only removed Girls Do Porn’s official channel after Girls Do Porn’s owners were charged with federal sex trafficking counts. Other Girls Do Porn videos remained on the site via unverified uploaders who slipped by Pornhub’s faulty moderation.

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Users who wish to get verified can do so by using what’s essentially the Reddit AMA system—that is, uploading a (private) photo that includes the user’s face and a handwritten sign that includes their username and pornhub.com.

Anyway, there’s less porn now.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!