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Top executives quit Pornhub's parent company amid non-consensual sex controversy

In December 2020, Mastercard, Visa and Discover blocked customers from using their credit cards on Pornhub's website. Picture: Flickr.com

In December 2020, Mastercard, Visa and Discover blocked customers from using their credit cards on Pornhub's website. Picture: Flickr.com

Published Jun 22, 2022

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By Lateshia Beachum

Two top executives at MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub, have resigned amid allegations that the site does not immediately or sufficiently remove content involving non-consensual and underage sex.

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MindGeek confirmed the departures of CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo on Tuesday.

"Antoon and Tassillo leave MindGeek's day-to-day operations after more than a decade in leadership positions with the company," the company told The Washington Post. "MindGeek's executive leadership team will run day-to-day operations on an interim basis, with a search under way for replacements."

News of the departures come about a week after a New Yorker article detailed people's attempts to get Porhhub to remove sexuality explicit content that involved underage and non-consensual participants. The announcement of the departures was not related to the piece, MindGeek told The Post.

The company said it had enacted the most extensive safeguards "in the history of the internet" and data proved its policies have been effective. It cited a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children report showing that Pornhub had few instances of child sexual abuse and that it removed cases of such material "in the shortest amount of time after being notified among all major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more".

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"The New Yorker had the opportunity to seriously evaluate what works in fighting illegal material on the internet by looking at the facts, comparing the policies of platforms, and studying the results," MindGeek said.

"Instead, they chose to ignore the fact that MindGeek has more comprehensive and effective policies than any other major platform on the internet, and decided to peddle the same gross mischaracterisations that anti-porn extremists have spewed for decades."

Alana Evans, the president of the Adult Performance Artists Guild, a union for adult performers, said entertainers were stunned by the news of the departures because such resignations typically come as a result of bad press or a scandal.

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"The timing is kind of out of the blue," Evans told The Post but added that she didn't think the resignations were tied to the New Yorker piece. MindGeek has fought lawsuits and negative articles in the past, she said.

In December 2020, Mastercard, Visa and Discover blocked customers from using their credit cards on Pornhub's website after the New York Times published an opinion piece accusing Pornhub of being rife with non-consensual and child abuse material.

The New Yorker piece, which Evans called "a hit job", quotes multiple organisations, such as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Exodus Cry, that have been at the forefront of pushing legislation and corporate decisions that make it hard for sex workers to earn a living.

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Evans said she was stunned by the exits of the top executives, but noted that their resignations probably would not affect the day-to-day life of performers because people in those positions were far removed from the routine of the average performer.

"MindGeek is corporate porn," she said, naming smaller outlets. "Other owners and CEOs are far more involved in porn and the product."

What's mainly on the mind of people in the industry is what is next for MindGeek, especially for Pornhub. Evans noted that the company had an opportunity to place a woman in charge.

MindGeek said it was at the beginning of investing in its "creator-first offerings and additional opportunities for content monetisation, with a plan to use resources to make headway in this burgeoning business as the company continues to be a force in digital video and tube sites".

Moving to models where it could compete with subscriber-based and creator-driven platforms such as Patreon and OnlyFans made good business sense, Evans said.

"That's what's hot. That's what people want," she said, adding that limiting free content was good for performers because most platforms made money from advertising. "The more free content that is pulled, the more money that we make."

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