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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

PornHub Accused in Lawsuit of Making Millions Off of Fraudulent Videos

Forty women dealt the latest blow to tech company PornHub Tuesday, suing the website and its parent company MindGeek for allegedly ignoring — and profiting from — the purported sex trafficking enterprise run by GirlsDoPorn, a website the same women blew the whistle on in a fraud trial last year.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — Forty women dealt the latest blow to tech company PornHub Tuesday, suing the website and its parent company MindGeek for allegedly ignoring — and profiting from — the purported sex-trafficking enterprise run by GirlsDoPorn, a website the same women blew the whistle on in a fraud trial last year.

PornHub and MindGeek — which owns and operates more than 100 pornographic websites, or “the majority of the pornography on the Internet,” according to the lawsuit — were sued in the Southern District of California Tuesday for allegedly violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by making millions of dollars streaming videos produced by GirlsDoPorn.

GirlsDoPorn and its operators face criminal sex trafficking charges in the same court after revelations by 22 Jane Does in a civil fraud trial in San Diego Superior Court last year revealed the college-age women had been duped into appearing in porn flicks based on the lie the videos would be sold on DVDs overseas and would not be published online.

Porn actor Andre Garcia has already pleaded guilty to one count of sex trafficking and is waiting to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino.

In the latest lawsuit, 40 Jane Does claim GirlsDoPorn’s videos were able to go viral, resulting in paid subscriptions to its two websites featuring the full-length videos, because of the website’s partnership with PornHub and MindGeek.

The lawsuit follows a New York Times investigation last week, which revealed PornHub allowed users to post videos of rape and sexual assault. In response, the website purged millions of user-uploaded videos from its platform not created by its content partners.

But not all of PornHub’s content partners create ethical pornography, and the decision to remove user-uploaded videos Monday would not have applied to the GirlsDoPorn videos at issue in multiple lawsuits, attorney Brian Holm said in an interview with Courthouse News.

“The actions they took would not have prevented this because GirlsDoPorn was accepted into their content partner program,” Holm said.

“They need to vet allegations even if they are against their content partners but they didn’t cancel their partnership with GirlsDoPorn until after the criminal complaint was filed,” he added.

Holm said since representing women challenging GirlsDoPorn’s allegedly fraudulent business practices he has spoken to 150 victims. Additional women were able to join the plaintiffs from the GirlsDoPorn case in the suit at hand, because the statute of limitations for bringing civil claims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act is 10 years, whereas the statute of limitations for the fraud claims filed in state court was three years, Holm said.

According to the 43-page lawsuit, MindGeek and PornHub made millions off GirlsDoPorn through its viewshare and content partner programs where they have marketed and sold GirlsDoPorn’s videos since 2011.

The programs operated through URLs for the victims’ videos contain affiliate “trails” and hyperlinked advertisements. When clicked on through “teaser” video clips, the URLs redirect viewers away from “freesites” like PornHub and YouPorn to MindGeek’s “paysite,” Brazzers, or other “paysites,” including the two operated by GirlsDoPorn.

For viewers converted into paying subscribers, MindGeek and PornHub got a kickback through its partnership with GirlsDoPorn.

As of last fall, 70 videos hosted by MindGeek on the GirlsDoPorn channel on Pornhub had been viewed 700 million times and had more than 700,000 subscribers, according to the complaint.

MindGeek’s other free websites that hosted GirlsDoPorn videos including YouPorn, Tube8 and RedTube also had hundreds of millions of views, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiffs are informed and believe MindGeek generated millions of dollars in affiliate fees and premium subscriptions from selling, marketing and exploiting videos featuring victims of GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture, including plaintiffs,” the Does claim.

The women claim as early as 2009, “and definitely by fall 2016 MindGeek knew GirlsDoPorn was trafficking its victims by using fraud, coercion, and intimidation as part of its customary business practices to get the women to film the videos.”

But when the women complained to MindGeek, detailing the fraud and coercion they were subjected to by GirlsDoPorn, and asking for their videos to be removed from its websites, it allegedly ignored their pleas.

According to the complaint, Jane Doe 11 submitted multiple takedown requests to MindGeek in August 2016, requesting the GirlsDoPorn video she was in be removed from its websites. She expressed she was suicidal due to the video being published online, but her videos remained on MindGeek’s websites until GirlsDoPorn’s operators were arrested in October 2019.

“MindGeek knew it was partnering with and profiting from a sex trafficking venture for years. MindGeek also knew of the significant harassment and trauma GirlsDoPorn’s victims were enduring by its continued publication of the victims’ videos. MindGeek simply did not care and continued to partner with GirlsDoPorn until it was no longer profitable because of the indictments and arrests,” the women claim in their complaint.

The Does seek more than $1 million each in compensatory and punitive damages and for MindGeek’s websites to be permanently blocked from profiting off of and publishing the GirlsDoPorn videos they are featured in. 

MindGeek did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night. 

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