PornHub owner MindGeek is sued for $80 million by 40 women

PornHub owner MindGeek is sued for $80m by FORTY women who say site ‘partnered with and profited from sex trafficking operation GirlsDoPorn’

  • In a complaint filed Tuesday in California, alleged victims say MindGeek ‘knew it was partnering with and profiting from a sex trafficking venture for years’  
  • In January a judge found the owners and operators GirlsDoPorn must pay $12.7 million for lying to women about how their explicit videos would be distributed 
  • Pornhub has been forced to delete 10m videos uploaded by unverified users 
  • That followed a report which profiting from videos of child sexual exploitation
  • These latest allegations now say its parent company knew GirlsDoPorn was ‘using fraud, coercion, and intimidation but continued to work with them’

PornHub owner MindGeek is being sued for $80 million by 40 women who say the site profited from ‘sex trafficking’ operation GirlsDoPorn. 

In a complaint filed Tuesday in California, the alleged victims say MindGeek ‘knew it was partnering with and profiting from a sex trafficking venture for years’. 

A judge found in January that the owners and operators GirlsDoPorn must pay $12.7 million for lying to women about how their explicit videos would be distributed. 

The fresh lawsuit, filed this week, states: ‘MindGeek also knew of the significant harassment and trauma GirlsDoPorn’s victims were enduring by its continued publication of the victims’ videos’ but ‘simply did not care’. It claims the site ‘continued to partner with GirlsDoPorn until it was no longer profitable’. 

PornHub, whose parent company is Montreal-based MindGeek, was this week forced to crack down on its unverified users following a New York Times report which said  it was profiting from videos of child sexual exploitation, rape and revenge porn. 

Even after the videos were flagged and removed, downloaded copies continued to circulate, often with severe personal consequences, the paper said. 

Pornhub, which attracted 42 billion views in 2019, said that it doesn’t knowingly allow images of sexual abuse of children but was forced to remove more than 10 million unverified videos – the majority of its content – Monday.

Credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and Discover have since blocked their customers from making purchases on Pornhub. 

PornHub owner MindGeek is being sued for $80 million by 40 women who say the site profited from ‘sex trafficking’ operation GirlsDoPorn

These latest allegations, first reported by The Daily Beast, now say its parent company knew GirlsDoPorn was ‘using fraud, coercion, and intimidation as early as 2009, and definitely by fall 2016’ but continued to work with them until 2019. 

‘If MindGeek did not know GirlsDoPorn was a sex trafficking venture before October 2019, it should have known for a great number of reasons,’ the lawsuit adds. 

‘The most notable of which is that GirlsDoPorn’s victims sent MindGeek complaints detailing the fraud and coercion they were subjected to by GirlsDoPorn.’

It is alleged MindGeek ‘still hosts victims’ videos on its websites, including Plaintiffs’ as of December this year, adding that they have  ‘suffered damages including, but not limited to, severe emotional distress, significant trauma, attempted suicide, and social and familial ostracization.’

The lawsuit adds: ‘Further, MindGeek has received ill-gotten gains by selling, marketing and exploiting videos featuring the Plaintiffs’ likenesses.’  

MindGeek has not commented on the claims.   

GirlsDoPorn owner Michael Pratt is on the run and remains on the FBI most wanted list

In January of this year records show a judge found the owners and operators of San Diego-based GirlsDoPorn must pay $12.7 million for lying to women about how their explicit videos would be distributed. 

In that case GirlsDoPorn, was sued by nearly two dozen women who claimed they were deceived and coerced into making sex videos without knowing the footage would be posted on the internet.  

Among the defendants in the January ruling were website owners Michael James Pratt, 36, and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, 37, and adult film actor Ruben Andre Garcia, 31. 

Garica pleaded guilty to sex trafficking and is set to be sentenced; Wolfe is awaiting trial, records show; Pratt is on the run and remains on the FBI most wanted list.   

At trial, defense attorneys argued that the women were over 18, understood what they were doing, accepted payment and in some cases returned to San Diego again and again to make more videos. 

The plaintiff’s attorneys said the videos were not immediately posted on the internet and defendants later refused requests to take down the films.

Some of the women testified that although they accepted performing sex on camera to earn money, including paying for college, the subsequent publicity ruined their lives and careers.     

Adult movie stars lash out at ‘war on porn’ after Pornhub was forced to remove 80 per cent of its videos amid claims it is ‘infested’ with child sexual abuse material

Adult movie stars have lashed out at a ‘war on porn’ after PornHub was forced to remove 80 per cent of its videos over claims it is ‘infested’ with child abuse images.

The adult performers who rely on Pornhub say that the decision has reduced their incomes to ‘pennies’ and have complained they are the victims of a ‘crusade against the sex industry’. 

Alana Evans, 44, a veteran porn star and President of the Adult Performers Actors Guild, said that this was made particularly difficult by the pandemic. 

‘Thousands of people have turned to this type of online sex work to feed their families, and this move is affecting those moms who just want to buy diapers and milk,’ she told NBC. 

Mary Moody, 29, (left) one of the website’s high-ranking actresses and Alana Evans, 44, (right) a veteran porn star and President of the Adult Performers Actors Guild union

Pornhub, which attracted 42 billion views in 2019, is synonymous with online pornography and many adult performers feel it is an essential avenue to building a substantial audience.

Through Pornhub, the website’s Canadian owners have been able to carve out a dominant share of the industry, building other similar free ‘tube’ sites like YouPorn and RedTube, and their own production companies, Reality Kings and Brazzers.

Although Pornhub is famous for being free, performers are able to charge for premium content which they can offer to subscribers.

‘This is a crusade against the sex industry and the workers who comprise it,’ said Allie Awesome.

The 30-year-old told NBC she makes anywhere between a few hundred dollars to a few thousands from Pornhub each month but this has now been reduced to ‘pennies’ which she takes from the site’s advertising share program.

Mary Moody, one of the website’s high-ranking actresses, used to rake in up to $2,000 per month for her sex videos.

‘Suspending Visa and Mastercard payments only prevents consensual adult sex workers from earning money on the site,’ the 29-year-old told the broadcaster.

‘This is a crusade against the sex industry and the workers who comprise it,’ said Allie Awesome

Moody claims that the Times’ piece about Pornhub was fuelled by propaganda from ‘a dishonest, anti-LGBTQ extremist hate group’ who the author worked closely with on his article.

She also says that Pornhub is further ahead of many big tech social media firms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in policing child sex abuse images.

‘The allegations from the dishonest New York Times report fail to mention that porn sites do more to combat non-consensual sexual content & CSAM (child sexual abuse material) and have far less of it than major social media sites like Facebook,’ she said.

Carrie A. Goldberg, an attorney who specializes in sexual privacy violations, tweeted last week: ‘For every case involving a rape tape on Pornhub, I have 50 involving rape and CSAM being disseminated on Insta and FB.

‘Pornhub is far from perfect. But mainstream big tech is far worse and have a built-in mechanism for harassing victims directly.’

Mary Moody has 240,000 followers on Instagram

The Times piece claims that of the 6.8 million new videos posted each year on the site, ‘many’ depict ‘child abuse and nonconsensual violence,’ including scenes of incest and women being asphyxiated in plastic bags.

Because Pornhub users can download videos directly from the site, the Times argued, images of abuse could be endlessly reposted elsewhere on the Internet.

Simon Corneau, a professor in the sexology department of the University of Quebec in Montreal, said the decisions by Visa and Mastercard were a ‘major’ blow to Pornhub’s bottom line.

Pornhub called them ‘exceptionally disappointing,’ pointing to changes it made following the Times report: banning unverified users from uploading videos to the site, banning free downloads and increasing content moderation.

The credit card titans’ ban, it said, was ‘crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods.’

East Coast-based dominatrix Bardot Smith told NBC: ‘It’s one of many companies in the adult space that is exploitative and problematic in a number of ways. But people have to use them to make money.

‘If you search for a porn star’s name, it’s more likely you’ll get results from Pornhub and other tube sites than their private sites. It creates a monopoly on search traffic to adult content. So people are left with no choice but to interact with them.’ 

Pornhub is not new to controversy.

In 2019, several groups, including Unilever and Kraft Heinz distanced themselves from the site after an article in Britain’s Sunday Times identified videos with sexual content involving children.

Canadian Senator Julie Miville-Dechene, who in September proposed legislation aimed at preventing children from being exposed to pornography, told AFP there was ‘minimal verification’ of video uploads on Pornhub.

And ‘even if Pornhub takes down a video, it can reappear elsewhere online and spread,’ she said.

Miville-Dechene said she would take a wait and see attitude toward Pornhub’s latest measures.

A Liberal lawmaker meanwhile called Friday for the company’s top executives to appear before a parliamentary committee seeking explanations.

Responding to opposition questions, Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault this week told the House of Commons he was already working on new regulations to force ‘online platforms to eliminate illegal content including hate speech, child sexual exploitation and violent extremism content.’

A government bill would be introduced in early 2021, he said.

The spotlight on Pornhub comes in a context of proliferating child abuse imagery online: Cybertip, a Canadian tip line for reporting abuses, says it receives a total of about 10,000 calls per month about child exploitation cases.

In a statement, Pornhub told AFP it has ‘no tolerance’ for content that shows sexual abuse of children – while arguing that such images are infinitely less prevalent on its site that other major internet platforms.

Internet Watch Foundation, it noted, reported 118 such cases of abuse on its site in the last three years, compared to 84 million on Facebook.

REVEALED: Pornhub founders are four Canadian college friends dubbed ‘the kings of smut’ who made millions by creating the YouTube of porn in 2007 but now face a reckoning as Visa and Mastercard cut ties with their site over child rape claims

When PornHub was hit with claims that it is hosting child rape videos on its site last week, prompting Visa and Mastercard to cut ties with the site, its reign as the world’s leading porn website was plunged into sudden uncertainty.  

While the website is ubiquitous, little is known about its owners and operators or how much it is worth. 

They are Stephane Manos, Ouissam Youssef, Feras Antoon and Matt Keezer, who founded the site in 2007, two years after YouTube was founded, in Montreal, Quebec. 

They all knew each other for years while attending Concordia University and had a shared love of the internet and pornography.  

Antoon is the only one who retains a formal active role as the CEO of PornHub’s parent company MindGeek. MindGeek is a private company whose headquarters are now in Luxembourg. It has more than 1,200 employees.  

It’s unclear who came up with the PornHub concept but Keezer is who bought the domain name PornHub for $2,750 from someone he’d met at a Playboy mansion party.

Canadian Feras Antoon (left) is currently the CEO of Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek. Of the founders, he’s the only one who retains a formal operational role. Matt Keezer (right) is one of the founders. He now runs a travel booking company 

Keezer now runs a flight-booking website and Manos and Youssef head up Valsoft, which acquires and scales up software companies. 

Originally, they bonded over a love of foosball in college and it was their shared interest in technology and porn that drove the venture, they say. 

In 2003, Keezer, Manos, and Youssef, then students, had already founded websites like Jugg World, A** Listing, KeezMovies, and XXX Rated Chicks, where people could look at pictures of porn and download short videos but it was nothing like PornHub, where they could surf and browse thousands of videos that were hosted all in one place. 

Antoon’s brother Mark (above) serving as the company’s vice president

Back then, those sites were run under a parent company known as Mansef.  

In an interview with New York Magazine in 2011, Antoon explained how the three others focused at first on featuring women with large breasts.  

‘The big-t*ts niche was so cheap,’ he told New York Magazine. 

They then realized there were other ‘niches’ like breasts in general, MILFs and other categories.

‘They saw, wow, that t*t niche is huge. 

‘Then they realized that the MILF niche—the older-woman niche—is even bigger. 

‘And they became the masters of the big-t*t–MILF niche,’ he said. 

Together, they founded Brazzers – a pay site whose name was a play on their Middle Eastern backgrounds and their pronunciation of the word ‘brothers.’

Under Brazzers, they started rolling out more and more porn videos by contracting with producers in LA and Vegas and having them put together high-quality videos. 

Their signature was, as Antoon described, large-breasted women and so they were credited with the revival of breast implants in the industry. 

The operation continued to grow and Antoon – who is Manos’ brother-in-law – was brought in to help. 

Every year, the company doubled in size. 

The roles were, according to New York Magazine’s profile on them, as follows;  ‘Youssef was the business visionary, Manos the salesman and motivator, Keezer the savant of search-engine optimization.’ 

Antoon called Keezer ‘by far the best in the world’, saying: ‘Who can get ‘porn’ and ‘sex’ to be No. 1? We’re the No. 1 result [for each]. You know how hard that is?’ 

PornHub went online in early 2007 and quickly grew in success but was hated by the industry which complained that it – like YouTube – was ripping off pay-for websites by slapping content on their sites without charging people for it and instead making their money through banner ads. 

It was not part of Mansef but instead was managed under the company Interhub.

MindGeek is also the owner of other popular YouTube-like adult portals, including YouPorn and RedTube (stock images)

Pornhub’s parent company MindGeek bills itself as a tech company. It has 1,200 global employees 

In 2010, after rolling out several other brands under the umbrella company, Interhub and Mansef were sold to German millionaire Fabian Thylmann for an estimated $140million. 

Following the acquisition, Thylmann changed the company’s name to Manwin and continued to snap up more pornographic websites after raising $362million in financing from Colbeck Capital. 

Three years later, he sold his stake back to Antoon for $100million.  By now, the company had been rebranded as MindGeek. 

Antoon, according to Le Journal de Montreal, bought two sprawling luxury condos for $730,000 in 2017. 

Some of the co-founders are said to have invested in a 600-condo development in Montreal and one of the men mentioned investing in Florida and the Middle East. 

Another article from the newspaper reported that the men boasted online about investing some of their money in real estate both in the US and oversees. 

In 2017, Feras Antoon bought two apartments in this building in downtown Montreal for just over $700,000 

They are said to have invested in a 600-condo development in Montreal and one of the men mentioned investing in Florida and the Middle East. 

None share any details of their private lives online. They do not have public social media pages. 

In a 2016 interview with Vice, Mark Antoon described MindGeek more as a tech company than anything to do with porn. 

Montreal, he said, was the ideal hub for it. 

‘Montreal provides an ideal setting for tech talent. It has a unique multicultural backdrop, a great joie de vivre, and an affordable standard of living that make it a very attractive option for tech resources,’ he said.  

MindGeek, which is based in Luxembourg, with offices in Montreal, Cyprus and London, has been criticized for its monopolistic power in the industry, due to its ownership of major production companies as well as streaming and distribution services. 

Under the helm of parent company MindGeek, Pornhub currently has over 22million registered users worldwide and draws a staggering 120million visitors daily, placing it above Amazon and Netflix in online traffic rankings. 

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