Pornhub Failed To Cooperate On Revenge Porn Investigation, Say Police

Sophie Gallagher

Pornhub has been accused of failing to cooperate with a UK police investigation into alleged revenge porn being hosted on its website – and campaigners are calling for change.

There are claims the pornography site did not adequately respond when Derbyshire Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) asked for information for their inquiries. 

Derbyshire police told HuffPost UK that when it contacted the website “a first request, regarding specific technical information, was complied with by Pornhub”. But a second request for information regarding when, where and by whom the material was uploaded – submitted by email in March 2019 with a further follow-up email in April – did not receive a response. 

A spokesperson from the CPS told Huffpost: “In this case, evidence of the device used to upload the material and establishing who was responsible for uploading the material was crucial to a prosecution. As this information was not available from the investigation, we were unable to progress this case.”

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The case was first brought to the attention of police in August 2018 by a 24-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, after her ex-boyfriend recorded videos of them having sex without her consent. When the couple broke up, the man reportedly uploaded the videos to Pornhub. The woman was only made aware of them when a former girlfriend of her ex-partner got in touch.

She said in a statement shown to HuffPost UK: “Unbeknownst to me, he had taken videos of myself and the two of us whilst we were seeing each other – completely without my knowledge and most certainly without my consent. How can you consent to something when you don’t even know it’s happening?”

Revenge porn is legally defined as the distribution of a private sexual image of someone without their consent and with the intention of causing them distress and has been illegal in England and Wales since 2015.

“When I watched them I immediately felt sick and absolutely disgusted in myself, even though I’d done nothing wrong at all it was very hard to shake the feeling of self-disgust,” said the woman in this case, who phoned the police immediately to report the crime and took evidence to her local police force.

Derbyshire Constabulary arrested a 28-year-old man in relation to the case in October 2018, but he was released without charge. The CPS told The Sunday Times that if Pornhub supplied further details “the file would be reopened and we would be able to make a charging decision”.

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While revenge porn has been illegal in England and Wales since 2015, victims are not granted automatic anonymity as with other sexual crimes, a detail that is currently under review by the Law Commission as part of a wider consultation into image-based abuse, including cyber flashing and deepfake porn.

In July 2019, the Victim’s Commissioner Vera Baird called on the government to classify revenge porn as a sexual offence, rather than an offence within the Malicious Communications Act as it currently stands.  

The Revenge Porn Loophole

Despite revenge porn being illegal, it is still possible for this material to feature on open access porn websites, where users can upload their own videos without proving they have the consent of those featured. 

Even if a porn site is alerted to, and subsequently removes, instances of revenge porn, users can download the material while it is still available online and re-upload it at a later date without being identified. 

The woman in the Derbyshire case said in her statement: “Nobody should have to go through the degrading nature of someone doing this to them and it certainly should not be treated like it has been by Pornhub. It does matter, it is serious, it does ruin people’s lives.”

The #NotYourPorn campaign is calling for the government to make hosting revenge porn on porn websites illegal. Kate Isaacs, who runs the campaign, told HuffPost UK that she also wants people to have to prove anyone in a video or image is over the age of 18, something which they don’t currently have to do. 

Isaacs says commercial pornography websites such as Pornhub, which is owned by Luxembourg-based company MindGeek (which also owns YouPorn and RedTube), make “huge amounts of money” from videos of this nature.

“Pornhub clearly sees this as a copyright issue rather than the trauma victims go through trying to get these damaging videos off their website,” she said, citing the mental health impact for victims and calling for change.

This article was updated on Wednesday 23 October with a statement from Blake White, VP at Pornhub: “Pornhub has always been cooperative with authorities for investigations and is willing to assist them in any capacity. We’ve had previous contact with the Derbyshire Constabulary about this investigation following their initial request for technical information.

“We never received inquiries from the Derbyshire Constabulary in March or April 2019 as this article claims. In the meantime, authorities have direct access to our legal team from their initial communication and we are in contact with them right now to continue support of their investigation.”

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