Hold commercial pornography sites accountable: Ethics Committee

28 June 2021

“In my 17 years in Parliament, I have never been as shaken…” said MP Charlie Angus in a press conference on the release of the Ethics Committee report into Pornhub.

The Ethics Committee heard from survivors who shared harrowing testimony of the impact Pornhub has had on their lives. Their images were posted on Pornhub without their knowledge or consent and they fought a difficult battle to try to get the images taken down. The images were of the survivors as teens or young women, being sexually assaulted or recorded or uploaded without their consent.

One witness was 13 years old when she was pressured into sending a short video of herself to a boy she liked. Another witness was 15 years old when a stranger extorted her into sending pictures and videos of herself. Other women told how videos and pictures were taken of them by their partner without their knowledge or consent and posted to Pornhub.

The Ethics Committee is unanimously recommending that the government explore ways to hold commercial pornography sites accountable.

As Angus described the committee findings,

So, what did we find? We found a pattern of corporate negligence on the part of Pornhub/MindGeek. Their claims of corporate accountability simply did not stand up to the powerful and brutal testimony we heard from survivors who tried again and again and again to get those videos of non-consensual abuse taken down. We heard of criminal acts being profited from, being promoted, being exploited in a culture of indifference at the corporate level. And they need to be held accountable for that.
… it raises the question of whether or not Canada is a safe haven for tech companies that trade and profit from the sexual violence against women and children.

The committee report makes many strong, positive recommendations. It recommends that platforms be required to verify the age and consent of anyone depicted in pornographic material before it is posted. This was one of the recommendations the EFC advocated for in its written submission to the Committee. The EFC’s submission is footnoted in the report, along with many other organizations asking for similar changes.

This report is a significant positive step toward government action to protect women and youth. But there is much more work to be done. It will take all of us to continue to press the government to act on the committee’s recommendations and to put laws and policies in place that will protect others from being victimized by platforms like Pornhub.

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