March 26, 2021

HJ Talks About Abuse: Abuse on Pornographic Sites

Recently, the Hugh James Abuse team discussed the surge in popularity of websites such as OnlyFans and Pornhub. We have also discussed the law in relation to revenge porn and the campaign ‘The Naked Threat’ in relation to threats to share intimate images.

Sadly, with the increase in popularity of pornographic websites where anyone can upload images immediately with little background checks, more and more individuals are having images shared online without their consent. The question remains, are those participating in videos or images consenting to the same being shared online? Are the laws in that country or state being broken? Sadly, some victims will never know their private images have been shared for millions to see. There has also been much concern in relation to both sex trafficking and the uploading of child abuse pornography.

In recent weeks, another female in the public eye, Georgia Harrison star from The Only Way is Essex and Love Island disclosed that her former boyfriend had posted a video of them having sexual intercourse online to OnlyFans, filmed without her knowledge and shared without her consent. She documented the difficulties she had when she contacted the OnlyFans site to have these images of her removed.

Following this, people began to circulate the video on social media and Whatsapp. A number of newspapers and magazines highlighted why these images should not continue to be shared and the legal implications to those doing so.

OnlyFans did remove the post and suspended the account it came from after an initial delay following significant public scrutiny. However, this begs the question, how many individuals are featured on this site without consent or knowledge? Once again this highlights the lack of background due diligence checks these companies complete when uploading new material. We will see in the coming weeks what changes OnlyFans will make and whether the person who did upload the images in question will face criminal prosecution. At the time of writing, the press has reported the individual has been charged with harassment, exposure and voyeurism.  

Pornhub has over 3.5 billion visits each month. On 12 December 2020, the Company deleted over 10 million videos following a backlash over illegal and depraved content. There were 13 million videos prior to this, which shows the grand scale of the removal.

The move finally came following an investigation by the New York Times, which revealed a large number of the site's porn videos featured underaged and sex-trafficked people 

The report also found Facebook removed 12.4 million images related to child exploitation in a three-month period. Twitter closed 264,000 accounts in six months for engaging in sexual exploitation of children. By contrast, Pornhub notes that the Internet Watch Foundation, an England-based non-profit that combats child sexual abuse imagery, reported only 118 instances of child sexual abuse imagery on its site over almost three years, Pornhub said Eliminating illegal content is an ongoing battle for every modern content platform, and we are committed to remaining at the forefront,” The full report can be found here.

Cosmopolitan reported on concerns regarding videos of genuine rapes and sexual assaults being posted The publication said “We must consider the ongoing impact for the victims and also whether disclosing such images online begins to normalise sexual abuse to the viewer.” At the time, a spokesperson for Pornhub said “Videos with these titles are more often legal, consensual videos catering to various user fantasies”. 

Pornhub has largely been criticised for allowing videos to remain up without verifying that the participants consent to these images being shared online which is the common concern with OnlyFans. Although a minority of those sharing images without consent may have been punished within the criminal legal system, Pornhub largely remained unaccountable.

Both major sponsors Visa and Mastercard have cut ties with Pornhub when news of the inappropriate videos was made public. Pornhub have now confirmed they have brought in what it claims are “the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history”.  

In what can only be seen as a positive move, Pornhub has now banned unverified uploaders from posting new content as more stringent safeguarding put in place moving forward which is positive. 

It will be of interest to see how sites like Pornhub and OnlyFans will continue to safeguard individuals from revenge porn and what steps they take to validate that the participants have consented.  

There are still urgent calls to regulate the porn industry to protect those who work within the industry and those who have been exploited by it. 

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

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