Ex-PornHub moderators reveal life inside explicit video site being sued for $80m

Former PornHub moderators have lifted the lid on life at the world’s largest online adult entertainment website, currently being sued for $80million over alleged ‘sex trafficking’.

Workers at MindGeek, PornHub’s parent company based in Montreal, Canada, would allegedly watch up to 1,200 videos a day, spending hours categorizing and tagging sex acts and fetishes as well as reviewing ‘suspicious’ content, from puppies being kicked to death, to child abuse, rape and incest. 

Pornhub, which had 42billion views in 2019, was considered the ‘breadwinner’ in a group of adult sites owned by MindGeek including YouPorn and RedTube.   

The ex-staffers claimed that PornHub’s guidelines were the most lenient and their job was ‘to find weird excuses not to remove’ videos.

They spoke of managers who felt ‘untouchable’ boasting of soaring profits at all-staff meetings and who took too long to report and remove concerning content.   

Mandatory 400 videos a day quotas were introduced in the spring, leading to ‘panic attacks’ among some staff who were under ‘surveillance’ and felt unable to watch so much questionable content.

Moderators who didn’t meet the quota could be terminated whilst others say they suffered from ‘burn out’ from watching ‘a life time’ of pornography and upsetting content, with some reporting low sex drive, as a result, and others, higher.    

‘As the leaders in the porn industry, in adult entertainment, I thought it was their moral obligation to do a lot more’, one whistleblower told Business Insider.   

MindGeek, PornHub's parent company based in Montreal, Canada, also the owner of other popular YouTube-like adult portals, including YouPorn and RedTube

MindGeek, PornHub’s parent company based in Montreal, Canada, also the owner of other popular YouTube-like adult portals, including YouPorn and RedTube

PornHub is being sued for $80million by 40 women who claim it 'profited' from 'sex trafficking' related to videos from former PornHub partner GirlsDoPorn

PornHub is being sued for $80million by 40 women who claim it ‘profited’ from ‘sex trafficking’ related to videos from former PornHub partner GirlsDoPorn

The revelations are the latest in a series of blows to the controversial adult entertainment company in the last few weeks.  

On December 15 MindGeek was sued for $80 million by 40 women who say the site profited from ‘sex trafficking’ operation GirlsDoPorn.

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

On December 14 the site was forced to remove 10million videos, the majority of its content, from 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 now says it was only allow content from verified users, something other social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to implement. 

Credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and Discover severed ties with the company soon afterwards, blocking customers from making purchases on Pornhub.

Users can still pay in cryptocurrency.  

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

PornHub said that it doesn’t knowingly allow images of sexual abuse of children.

In the latest revelations, whistleblower ‘Brian’, a pseudonym as he signed a non-disclosure agreement, told Business Insider that when he worked at MindGeek’s Montreal offices employees a few years ago they were required to review a minimum of 1,200 videos a day, a number that the company has disputed.

Brian also revealed the strange, internal logic that his team used to allow suspicious content through. 

If an incest video title said ‘his mother’, it was taken down, he said, but if it said ‘mother f—s son’, then they could argue she was a generic mother, of no relation to the son, and the video was approved. 

‘Our job was to find weird excuses to keep videos on our sites,’ said Brian.  

He added: ‘At one point we were debating what creatures were OK to be stepped on. Crickets, insects, and crawfish were OK, but not goldfish, because people have goldfish as pets.’

Later, when his team reviewed videos of women kicking puppies to death, MindGeek decided the rules were too lenient, and they prohibited stepping on any living creature.

MindGeek eventually made some of the changes Brian’s team recommended but he said some recent changes, like reporting suspicious videos to local authorities and adding more mental-health services, were too slow to arrive.  

Brian quit several years ago after suffering burnout from all the videos.  

‘We joked that in a month we’d see more porn than someone would see in a lifetime,’ he said.

‘I talked about that with people I was working with — how doing this work affected them in their personal lives. Some people had a lack of sex drive, some people said it didn’t affect them, and some people said it increased their sex drive.’  

Feras Antoon

Pornhub was launched by Canadian college grad Matt Keezer in 2007 after he bought the domain name for a mere $2,750

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 

In March, when video shoots halted due to COVID-19, some non-moderator teams were moved over to review content, another former employee, ‘John’, claimed. 

The new members allegedly underwent two training sessions before being handed an Excel document with tens of thousands of suspicious videos to check, with a mandatory quota of 400 a day.  

John said: ‘It was the first time ever that anyone was under this much type of surveillance, at least on my team, because we didn’t have to log hours. I had a coworker who was having panic attacks every week.’

He added that increased scrutiny on the company later caused their guidelines to get stricter with some videos being flagged that wouldn’t have been before, including performers simulating scenes of sex involving a person who was asleep, some BDSM content, and videos with visible bottles of alcohol.  

John added that the lack of industry consensus on ‘best practices’, including Facebook and other social media sites, was no excuse and reported hearing the CEO bragging at the annual February all-staff meeting about how much money MindGeek was making.

‘You know it’s an issue. You always have to deal with it,’ John said. ‘The fact that they didn’t shows you how untouchable they felt.’

Adult performer Allie Awesome was critical of Pornhub's decision to remove amateur videos, saying it's a 'crusade against the sex industry and the workers who comprise it'

Adult performer Allie Awesome was critical of Pornhub’s decision to remove amateur videos, saying it’s a ‘crusade against the sex industry and the workers who comprise it’

A spokesman for MindGeek, which is fiscally based in Luxembourg, said safety is the company’s top priority.

In an email, the spokesman highlighted steps the company has taken over the past several years and in the past week.

The company said it was targeted by anti-pornography groups, one of which got more than 2 million signatures on a petition to shut down Pornhub.  

MindGeek’s financial accounts, filed in Luxembourg, show that profit plummeted in 2018, the most recent year it filed results.

The company, which is privately held, earned $29 million in profit in 2018, compared with $102 million in 2017. 

PornHub was founded in 2007 by college friends Matt Keezer, Stephane Manos, Ouissam Youssef and Feras Antoon, branded ‘the kings of smut’.

They scaled it quickly between 2007-2010 before selling it for $140million to a German billionaire. 

Antoon bought back the billionaire’s stake in 2013 and continues to serve as the CEO of PornHub’s parent company Mind Geek.

MindGeek is privately held so its valuation is unknown but it has 1,200 global employees.    

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