First, thank you for having me and for allowing me to participate. My statement is a little lengthy. I'll try to get through it as fast as I can and not take up too much of your time.
My name is Victoria Galy. I live in Hendersonville, Tennessee. I'm a victim of sex trafficking under the legal definition in Tennessee in the United States. I've had numerous non-consensual pornographic images and videos of me posted on Pornhub.com.
Beginning in 2018, I found the videos and reported them to Pornhub. Many of the videos were labelled “teen” and were clearly of a person who was drugged and/or intoxicated, as evidenced by the occurrences in the videos. Most of these videos were made by an ex of mine on a trip we took to Las Vegas, Nevada.
Upon finding these videos in 2018, the first thing I tried to do was to flag them. This led me nowhere. The videos were not removed. The next thing I tried to do was to report the videos. I found out that you had to create an account in order to do so. I had to provide my full name and my email address. I was hesitant, as I wasn't the type of person who watched porn or subscribed to anything like that. I didn't really want my name or my email address associated with it. However, I reluctantly set up the account and began to try to report the videos.
In 2018 I reported approximately 30 videos. Only three of those videos were removed at that time. For the remaining videos, I was told that I needed to submit a DMCA takedown notice to Pornhub before they would remove them. I wasn't familiar with what that meant or even what a DMCA takedown notice was.
As a result of the initial trauma in finding these videos, I suffered great emotional distress, resulting in what my doctor has now defined as a dissociative condition wherein I basically removed the memory of these videos and events from my present recollection, as it was too painful for me to process. It's called dissociative amnesia. People who suffer from this escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy, which causes problems with functioning in everyday life. This was obvious in my behaviour and my interactions with friends, family and co-workers from 2018 to 2020. I completely lost my self-worth and was engaging in risky behaviour that was very different from my typical self prior to 2018.
It wasn't until the summer of 2020, when these flashbacks and memories began to return, that I sought treatment with a psychiatrist and a sexual abuse trauma therapist. That is when I received my diagnosis and began taking medication for depression and PTSD. I have been undergoing cognitive processing therapy and making leaps and bounds in my recovery, but this is the hardest thing I've ever had to face in my life.
At times I was suicidal. After 16 years with one law firm as a paralegal, I had to take a leave of absence as I could no longer function on a daily basis nor make it through even one day at work. I left my house. I moved in with my mother for approximately four weeks so she could help me care for my children. I have a 16-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. I also suffered from severe anxiety and fear. I didn't feel safe. I was having intense nightmares, irritability, anger, embarrassment and such physical symptoms as pounding heart, nausea, etc. I lost at least 20 to 30 pounds. I couldn't eat. I was very sick.
In August of 2020, when my memories began to return, I began contacting Pornhub again regarding these videos. Upon visiting their website, I found that there had been many more videos made over that two- to three-year period. I reported many videos, including the ones claimed by Vicky Lust. There were approximately 60 to 65 videos. These were made by my ex, Brandon. Some of the videos were removed, but the ones that were claimed by Vicky Lust were not. I was told that they were claimed by a verified model and that they would not remove them. I sent them numerous emails explaining that the videos were of me and my ex, Brandon, but they refused to listen. I sent them photos of my birthmark, pointed out that I said Brandon's name in at least one of the videos, and even submitted photos of my various body parts to prove that it was me. They still refused to remove them.
I contacted their legal department directly through the email firstname.lastname@example.org, providing a clear PowerPoint presentation detailing why it was me in the videos and not the couple claiming them—who I found out later was in Helsinki, Finland—named Laura and Lauri. I received no response to that email.
In addition to the clear PowerPoint presentation that was provided to them, the comments that were posted and deleted on the Vicky Lust videos evidenced their non-consensual nature. It was not until after December 2020, when I filed a civil lawsuit against them pro se, I emailed them a copy and the article came out in The New York Times titled “The Children of Pornhub”, that they have now, at least temporarily, suspended these videos. They are of course all over the Internet now, having been downloaded by who knows how many users, and on a plethora of other websites. I will never be able to remove these videos. There were over eight million views just on Pornhub alone. To think of the amount of money that Pornhub has made off my trauma, date rape and sexual exploitation makes me sick to my stomach.
On Tuesday of this week, Chantelle Pittarelli, the director of legal and business affairs, finally responded to my emails. He or she refused to admit that it was me in the videos, but noted that they had decided at this time, due to the seriousness of my allegations, to delete the Vicky Lust account and that they fingerprinted the content to prevent future uploads to their site.
This, however, does nothing to remove them from the other sites all over the Internet, nor take back any of the destruction that this has caused in my life. Had they done this back in 2018 when I first contacted them, my life would look much different now. They never cared about my well-being, and they've profited from these illegal activities. I've had Facebook friends send me messages with links stating things like “Vicky, this looks like you”. I've been stopped at my home by an unknown man on at least two occasions and even propositioned by a stranger on Facebook asking if I had considered his offer to make videos. When I asked him, “What videos?”, as I did not know this man nor to what offer he was referring, he never responded.
Not only does Pornhub make it difficult or impossible to get these non-consensual videos removed, they make it difficult to sue them, insisting that I serve them with my lawsuit in Cyprus. Having been a paralegal for over 16 years, I've familiarized myself somewhat with the Hague Convention and have initiated service of process by postal means, as allowed under the convention for Cyprus residents. However, the typical victim would not have such means or familiarity.
Pornhub has training blogs and articles for teaching models and/or perpetrators at being successful on their platform. They recommend virtual private networks and the best editing apps to use and so on, which makes it more difficult for victims to prove their cases and get justice. In my particular case, my ex used a fake foreskin to appear uncircumcised in the videos, which caused the police department to not believe me and the district attorney to decline prosecution, despite me later providing clear evidence of this. Pornhub, to this day, has active videos showing this “toy” being used, which only educates predators in the ways of avoiding detection by authorities.
As stated in The New York Times article that I mentioned, I too feel like Pornhub has become my human trafficker, and they have been relentless in doing so. The background profile photo for Vicky Lust prior to August 2020, when I reported it to the police, was a full-body photo of me, naked, with only a mask across my nose and part of my eyes, similar to a Mardi Gras mask. I have been recognized in public by many people who wouldn't say from where it was and tormented emotionally.
If it weren't for the help of my amazing therapist and her cognitive processing therapy, I would not be here before you today, but I refuse to be a victim any further. I will advocate for myself and for all of the other victims who may not be able to or may not want to stand up, or who may have committed suicide, as we will never know. For me personally, I came very close to suicide, and I have never been so broken as I have been throughout this process.
I have been forced to stand up alone and fight Pornhub, so when I heard about your inquiry into the ethics of this company, I gladly came forward, willing to testify openly about my situation. I appreciate being allowed to participate in this process and the possibility of effecting change and/or holding this company accountable.
Thank you for hearing from me.
When I was 24, I met someone I thought was a really nice guy. I married him, and as soon as he thought I was stuck, he stopped being nice pretty quickly. In April 2020, I moved away from our home to be safe, and obviously, we're not together anymore.
During our relationship, I had let him take some pictures. I was uncomfortable at first, because I had never been in any picture like that, but I trusted him and I wanted to keep him happy. It wasn't until August of 2020 that I discovered those private photos had been uploaded to porn sites, including Pornhub.
I was upset about the photos, but it was about to get worse. Finding the photos led me to a video. I did not know the video existed. I found out about it by watching it on Pornhub. In the title of the video, it says I'm sleeping. The tags include “sleeping” and “sleeping pills”. Whether I was asleep or drugged is impossible to know after the fact, but what is clear in the video is that I am not conscious and there is nothing to suggest consent. The video is clearly homemade and was uploaded by an anonymous email address. This is the content that the Pornhub moderators supposedly viewed and decided belonged on their porn site. My video had been uploaded in August of 2017, so by the time I found it, it had been active on Pornhub for over three years, and I had no idea.
I didn’t try to get the video down right away because I showed it to the police the next morning, and they told me to leave everything until they were done with it. However, sometime between August 16 and 19, the Pornhub video became no longer playable. It said “technical difficulties”. About that same time, I noticed that Pornhub was pulling their tags that directly indicated non-consensual content. For example, if you searched “sleeping pills” in early September, it didn't return any results. This was, of course, not the case in mid-August, so my best theory is that the video disappeared as they tried to clean up those kinds of tags.
In all that time, the video did not get flagged or removed. The viewers, rather than being turned away by sexual assault videos, were actively searching out that content. The tags made this possible, and they knew what they were watching before they clicked. It is a profound betrayal to know that thousands of men saw your assault and not only did nothing to flag it but actively sought it out and enjoyed it.
On Pornhub, there is a comment section, so the night I found my video, I also got to read a man describe in graphic physical detail just how much he enjoyed himself watching it. On another site, thousands of men watched my video and instead of flagging it, they awarded it top-rated for a certain body part. This video is not a one-off that slipped through a filter. Sexual assault is not an anomaly on the porn sites; it is a genre. This leaves little incentive for these sites to moderate such content.
To give an idea of the scope of the spread, as of early January 2021—after the December purge, and after the RCMP had removed a bunch for me—googling the name of my Pornhub video still returned over 1,900 results. One cause of the spread is, of course, users downloading it and reuploading it. There are definitely some of these floating around, but the most significant way my video was spread was through links. MindGeek did this by putting links to my Pornhub video on their other sites as a cheap way of adding content to those sites. Many of the other third party sites also use this method, so they too linked to my video on Pornhub. Of the 1,900 search results, Pornhub is the source for all of them.
The upside with linking is that when the video is removed from Pornhub, it's not playable on these other sites either. The downside is that Pornhub creates a thumbnail image file for all the videos uploaded to its site, and this image can be downloaded even if the video is only a link. There are still quite a few of these thumbnails on porn sites and in search engine caches. The thumbnail is still a picture of me naked. I don't want it on the Internet. Also, when Pornhub deleted my video, they didn't delete any of the data surrounding it like the title and the username. That is also a problem.
I contacted Pornhub in January to get them to remove the data and the thumbnails associated with their site. At first they pretended not to know what I was talking about. I sent them all the information again. They sent me a link to Google and told me to go do it myself. After a month and a half and eight emails, Pornhub has removed some of the data and thumbnails that were associated with their site and they indexed a few things on one search engine that's still not all gone. I think they're just ignoring me now.
I also asked them for help in removing the thumbnails and the content that spread from Pornhub to these other sites. They told me that they can't remove their content from the other sites it spreads to. However, they have an entire program where they proactively do exactly that for their exclusive model content. They advertise it. They monitor the Internet for where these videos spread, they take them down for them and they even pay them a bonus. All I'm asking is that they pretend to care as much about their non-consensual content as they do about their paid, exclusive content.
Nothing will ever be able to undo what has been done. At this point, I just want to be off the Internet.
Thanks to Pornhub, today is day 1,292 that I have been naked on these porn sites.
I'm now 19 years old. I was 17 when videos of me on Pornhub came to my knowledge, and I was only 15 in the videos they've been profiting from.
When I was 15, I was extorted by a man who was unknown at the time into sending massive amounts of videos and images of me. He would tell me what I needed to do, for how long and even as far as what positions I had to be in. There were things he even asked me to do that were so disturbing that I cut contact with him, even though I was scared to do that.
I eventually found out that I wasn't the only one this had happened to because I was sent a link to a Tumblr account that was selling Dropbox files of me and hundreds of girls so other people could use our exploitation to make fake accounts to sell to men online who thought they were really speaking to us.
It's not something that anybody wants to hear, but I think it's important you understand the type of stuff I was subjected to that night and how depraved the man behind it was, so you can truly understand what Pornhub's been profiting from. There made me send videos of vaginal and anal masturbation, videos of me removing my clothes, videos of me spitting on myself and more. The videos that made me quit contact was when they went on to ask me to eat my own feces and drink my own urine. Although the videos that I did were embarrassing enough, I feel more sad for the girls who did the rest and got their footage uploaded to Pornhub.
I contacted the police when I found the site, but their only help for me was to delete my social media. From there a girl who I thought was my friend started circulating images of me, even going as far as to upload them on my 17th birthday and tagging me in them. I started getting so much abuse and harassment from people who lived close to me, and then in September 2018, someone from my city posted a video of me to Snapchat, which was screen recorded from Pornhub. This was the first time I had any knowledge of being on their site.
During this time, I stopped eating and leaving the house, and I was even considering suicide. I started getting hundreds of follow requests daily on my social media accounts and at least 50 messages a day sending me links of videos of me on Pornhub. That's when I realized that my name and social media had been posted alongside the videos. Some of those people were respectable and reported them when I told them I was only 15, but the majority of them enjoyed it even more.
It was a really scary time, and it seemed to just get worse and worse. A lot of the men felt entitled to me once they'd seen me on Pornhub. When I didn't want to speak to them, they would try to blackmail me or threaten me even more. Even now, I have some of the same people from 2018 still trying to contact me.
Pornhub would remove my videos once I found them, but I believe that's only because I provided a police reference code and because I mentioned suicide. I think they knew all too well that another death at their hands wouldn't look too good. Every time they took it down, they also allowed more and more videos of me to be reuploaded. The videos would get hundreds of thousands of views and contained my personal information, including my address and my family's social media.
One of the worst days was when their viewers started sending videos to my mum and dad. I barely speak to my dad, so to know he saw that video made it really hard for me to continue to visit him and feel normal.
Videos of me being on Pornhub has affected my life so much to the point that I don't leave my house anymore. I stopped being able to work because I was so scared to be out in public around other people. I feel like everyone who looks at me is looking at those videos. Because I couldn't work, I started my own business so I could stay in my bedroom where I felt safe, but even then, Pornhub's viewers started sending my customers the videos of me and making fake accounts of me.
To see Corey Urman smile and explain that he uses aliases to protect his identity, when he has the choice to post or not to post, is disgusting, because I had no choice about being uploaded to Pornhub and having my personal details exposed to the world. Hearing about Mr. Antoon buying his third property with the money he made from our exploitation but refusing to speak about how much he he earns in a year was more than frustrating, because I wake up every day in the same room where my exploitation took place. I don't have the choice of simply going to another property to escape from that.
My anxiety got so bad to the point where I couldn't eat at all, and I dropped down to only 80 pounds. I still struggle to manage to eat properly to this day, causing me to struggle with not only health issues but body dysmorphia. So many of their viewers commented on my body, discussing whether it was fake or real, messaging me to insult me or to talk how much they loved my small 15-year-old frame.
I had a lot of friendships that had to come to an end because I refused to go out and see them. I didn't want to go to parties or out in public, because being around people makes me have panic attacks. Going to the shops with my mum makes me have panic attacks, even going on public transport does. I even had someone turn up outside my house and take some pictures of my door, telling me that they'd found me on Pornhub and calling me by my name, which isn't on my social media. It's only on Pornhub. It just gave me more reasons not to go outside.
Pornhub always told me that I needed a link to get the videos removed. It was difficult because I couldn't always find the videos that were being sent to me. When I started questioning Pornhub on why they allowed anyone to just upload anything, they just told me that I needed to upload my videos to their third party site. I told them that not only was it illegal for me to do this, but it was illegal for them to ask me to do this because it's child porn and I'm not even allowed to have the content of myself. I told them there was nothing I could do, I felt suicidal and I was even considering getting legal advice if it didn't stop. They ignored me, and I never contacted them again.
They say they tried to tell me there was nothing they could do without a link, but that was a flat-out lie, given the fact that as soon as they were sent cease and desist letters, all footage of me was removed from their site straight away.
Also for them to say they've been forever “evolving” and the takedown of a million videos was just another step forward is debatable, because it's either one of two options. Option one, Pornhub honestly never thought of the idea to make verification needed to upload videos, which to me just clearly shows a lack of common sense and thought capacity to safeguard and run a business of this size. Option two was that they did think about the idea and they chose to ignore it for more money. Given that I asked them why they don't regulate this back in 2019 proves they were already suggested this idea by me, one of their victims, and they chose to just ignore it.
I feel that anyone I come into contact with has either seen the videos or will find them eventually. No one seems to believe I was a child because they tell me Pornhub is 18+ so you can't be underage.
There was a time when I tried to take my own life. Luckily, it wasn't successful. I now have people around me who are really supportive, but not all of Pornhub's victims have been so lucky and not all of Pornhub's victims have had the same support. I don't understand how many women's lives have to end or be ruined before there is accountability for what they've done.
The problem with my videos is that they were verified. Most of them were claimed to be verified by Laura and Lauri from Helsinki, Finland. I've had flashbacks from the events.
My ex and I took a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, with a group of his friends. When we first landed, the first place we visited was the dispensary, and he purchased various edibles and things. When we went back to the hotel I was given edibles. We were smoking marijuana and I was given a drink.
Now, I don't know what was in the drink. I believe I was drugged, because I didn't have a recollection of it. I spoke to my mom on the phone the next day after arriving there. She asked me how the trip was and I told her I didn't recall the previous day. She was alarmed at that time and thought that Brandon, my ex, had done something, but at that point, you know, we were together and I stood up for him. I thought my mom was just a mom.
Even through the verification process, they uploaded a photo that Brandon told me how to pose for. The photo is clearly edited, even to the extent that the leg is distorted from my hip to my knee. It shows in the image that is used to verify that model that there is a huge distortion, just like with photoshopping in magazines or any other photoshopped photo where you can tell the inaccuracies. If Pornhub had actually reviewed that photo closely, they would have noticed that, but the problem is that they had a photo of me naked to submit with my videos to claim that it was consensual. They uploaded their passports—Laura and Lauri did—to claim these videos, so even with their verifying the models, there's a problem in the way they're verifying them.
If you have a verified model, that still doesn't mean you should ignore victims when they come to you and tell you, “Hey, this is me.” I've sent them, like I said, my birthmark. I've sent them nude photos. I've sent them markings on my body that matched up. I even pointed out that the videos are listed under my name and I say my ex's name in the video. There is audio proof. You know, my voice is on this video.
Like I said, I received no response from them until Tuesday of this week. All of a sudden, even though they won't admit what I have said is true, they've decided to delete the Vicky Lust account and to fingerprint the content.
If they are allowed to continue and to have verified models, there should be a better way of verifying them. I know that a lot of companies that do porn, from what I've researched, are required to have a business licence before they can upload content. Just the average Joe submitting a nude photo that is cut off from here and doesn't have my head on it, along with their passport, should not be enough for them to become a verified model.
I actually have the emails where I communicated with them.
Initially when I started preparing my pro se civil suit against Pornhub, I looked to see if there was a registered agent for service of process in Tennessee, because that's where I live. Of course, nothing came back. I found a database that had Internet service providers and a listing of their registered agents for service of process.
I did find, at that time, that there was a registered agent for service of process in California, and that's where I attempted service first. It was CT Corporation in California. When they received the summons from the clerk for service, they sent me a letter that they didn't have that company registered and that they were not able to serve them.
That is when I started reaching out to Pornhub legal again and asking them if they had a registered agent for service of process, because I couldn't find anything. That's when Chantale Pittarelli, their director of legal services, told me that I must serve them in Cyprus. I have an email from her basically giving me the address for service of process.
I asked her, to whose attention, who would accept this? Should I put it to the owner of MG Freesites Ltd.? She basically told me, no, just send it to MG Freesites Ltd. at that address in Cyprus. Like I said, I started doing some research and I found under the Hague Convention that postal service, postal means, was allowed under the convention.
I've sent it out and I haven't received back from the post office whether or not they've been served. I was told it would take at least a couple of weeks. It's been one week since that has been sent out, so I don't know if I will be successful, if they will sign for it. They could refuse it as it's in English, and they could demand that it be translated to another language. I think the Hague Convention has those specific terms.
Even though I'm hopeful that I will have service of process on them within the next week, there's still no guarantee. Like I said, they have the right to refuse it as it's in English and that may not be their primary language.
Madam Clerk and members of the committee, I am very glad to be here this afternoon.
My name is Francis Fortin, and I am an assistant professor at the Université de Montréal's school of criminology, as well as a researcher at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology. The focus of my research is cybercrime and the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. Before getting into research, I spent 12 years working in cyber investigation and criminal intelligence at the Sûreté du Québec. I've authored a number of scholarly articles and three books, as well as a dozen or so chapters on cyberpedophiles.
Having a limited amount of time, I chose to divide my presentation into three parts. First, I will discuss options to encourage corporate compliance. Second, I will talk about ways to support and guide victims. Third and finally, I will address prevention and research.
Before I get into that, though, I want to say a few words about the current context. If you ask law enforcement agencies to break down the cases they deal with, two main categories emerge. The first category involves minors, and in those cases, a fast lane of sorts exists. Canada has a series of legal measures that make it easier to remove some child pornography content.
The second category involves adults, and the law is more vague in relation to those cases. For example, an adult who files a police complaint can be told that their case is a civil litigation matter. One of the witnesses gave such an example earlier. Basically, it's considered a civil matter, and the burden of taking the necessary steps falls on the complainant. As I see it, that's problematic.
Keep in mind that the revenge porn trend emerged a few years ago and shows no signs of slowing. As far as I know, Canada still has no active measures that allow authorities to take action in those cases.
Now I will turn to solutions, or ways to encourage corporate compliance. The key is to hold adult content providers accountable. One of this morning's witnesses mentioned the use of digital signatures. A number of worthwhile initiatives exist and are deployed mainly by law enforcement. Police keep child pornography databases and rely on digital signatures. Someone alluded to electronic fingerprinting earlier. These images have to be able to be shared on all platforms, including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, the GAFA platforms. I know that Google and Facebook use lists they obtain in the United States. These platforms should be required to block content that has previously been deemed illegal.
The requirement to report content is another option, although it remains a thorny issue. A tremendous effort is needed to educate web giants on the importance of reporting. The current approach tends to involve removing the content and claiming that nothing can be done. Things are even worse on the platforms of the web giants. They refuse to even remove the content. That is a far cry from relying on the platforms for co-operation and encouraging them to report issues to the authorities. Reporting is essential to investigate suspects who repeatedly engage in this behaviour.
Another option is to prevent content from being shared anonymously. It's easy to see how knowing and validating the identity of individuals who spread this content would significantly decrease the risks associated with illegal content. That would result in platforms having trustworthy content providers, since new users would ultimately have to undergo verification to gain platforms' trust.
Litigation is another avenue, as one of the witnesses mentioned. One of the benefits of involving the police is that they assess the complaint to determine whether it is founded.
I think that's an important step. I don't think platforms, content providers or anyone else should be doing an assessment of the complaint, especially in cases where there is a consensus. I'll come back to that point later.
The prompt removal of the content in question is an important consideration.
In all the cases you've heard about, there's one thing to remember: it's a race against time. In order for the parties to satisfy their legal obligations, it may be appropriate for companies to immediately suspend access to the content once it has been confirmed that there are reasonable grounds for doing so. That would happen even before guilt had been established. In this scenario, reasonable grounds would lead to the prompt suspension of content access.
I think it's important to consider issuing an operating licence as a way to support all of these measures. Companies would have to satisfy those compliance requirements in order to operate. It could be done through the adoption of an ISO standard or the issuing of a licence to operate in Canada.
The second thing I'd like to talk about is support and guidance for victims.
It's clear from their stories that they found themselves fighting the situation on their own. They were up against something that they didn't understand, something that had never happened to them. Obviously, that's extremely difficult.
Basically, there has to be a shift towards victim support. That means creating a new position, a victim liaison of sorts, who would help and guide victims. As soon as problematic content on a platform was flagged, that liaison would get involved.
Whenever a new case came to the attention of police or other front-line workers, they would contact the person designated to guide and support the victim. That person's role would be to quickly assess the complaint, and respond accordingly and swiftly. Establishing such a role would help victims because the liaison worker would be familiar with the process, know what steps to take and know who to contact at the main providers. That would prevent the cat-and mouse-game the victim gets caught up in, figuring out on her own what to do and who is responsible under the law. There would be a single person dealing with the different platforms.
A list could be drawn up outlining the steps to take when an incident of this nature occurs, similar to the process in the case of an accident. On one hand, police handle the investigation and deal with the criminal aspect, and on the other, the liaison steps in to manage the accident, so to speak. Furthermore, that person could—should, in fact—have the necessary powers to be effective.
The liaison could work with police and organizations involved in preventing sexual exploitation. In fact, I could readily see victims groups, even the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, taking on that role in the future.
A novel approach would be to establish a special victims task force, which would bring together police and liaison workers, and have all of the necessary legal tools to track down content. The task force would, of course, uncover information about suspects, but would not be responsible for the follow-up. The information would be turned over to the appropriate investigative authorities, and the task force would focus on tracking down content and ensuring platforms comply with the new measures. If Canada were to introduce an operating licence system, as I mentioned earlier, it would make the task force's job easier, as would having the contact information of those in charge.
That brings me to my third point. I want to underscore the importance of focusing on prevention in schools.
A continued focus on awareness is needed to make sure young people understand the significance of pictures and videos. Victims readily put their trust in people or technology. Many cases involve young people who trusted apps and sites like Snapchat because they felt secure knowing that the content would be removed. They ended up realizing, however, that their pictures and videos were shared without their consent.
Lastly, I want to stress how relevant research is.
In Canada and the U.S., we have no evidence focused on the phenomenon. The sexual exploitation of children on the Internet is hard to measure. I recommend that the government adopt measures to make it easier to access data, so that researchers like myself can build a body of evidence to effectively inform public policy.
I have been working on this problem for nearly 20 years now. I don't think we can rely on the industry to regulate itself. That's quite clear from the stories you've heard.
For anyone who's viewing this online and also for the committee, I want to offer a content warning before I get started of graphic, very offensive language and descriptions of sexual violence. I don't do this to be sensational. I do it because I think it's important for the committee to have an accurate idea and understanding of the situation with the content on Pornhub without mincing words.
As I proceed, I want to ask the committee to keep in mind that CEO Feras Antoon said to this committee, “every single piece of content is viewed by our human moderators”—every single piece of content.
COO David Tassillo said, “There should be zero videos tabbed under either [child pornography or non-consensual acts] categories. Those categories are banned from being used on our site, as the keywords are.” They said, “child abuse material has no place on our platform. It makes us lose money.”
I believe it's important to elevate the voices of survivors, and I want to read some quotes and testimonies from survivors who have reached out to me over the past year.
Kate said, “I was 15 years old. My ex was 20. He was into homemade videos and stuff so he had videotaped us having sex. One day he said, 'Let me show you something'. He pulled up Pornhub on his phone and showed me that he had posted a video of us having sex. I tried to contact Pornhub and get them to take it down, but they never contacted me back or did anything about it. He also posted my 'sexy pics' on his account. Grown men and women were looking and watching me there. I'm disgusted.”
Beth said, “I was 16 and I was drunk once at a friend's party. I woke up. I was naked and pictures of me were on Pornhub, along with my name and my phone number. I had calls and texts to the point that I changed my number.”
Nicki said, “When I was 14 years old, I made the decision that changed my life. I was having a sexual FaceTime call. I showed him areas of my body that were private. I didn't know at the time but he was recording and he had uploaded it to Pornhub. The name of the video even had the words 'young teen' but that was not enough for Pornhub to analyze it and make sure it was consensual or legal. Years later my classmates found it on the website and told me about it. I was 16 when they found it. The first one had over one million views. We got the first one taken down, but the identical video was posted over and over again. I reported it to the police, and they opened an investigation. They told me they had contacted Pornhub to make sure it wouldn't be shown anymore, but the video was posted again. During these times of being posted multiple times, I was bullied by my entire school. Every boy and girl in my high school saw my body, and it changed my life.”
Sarah said, “I found out an explicit video of me was posted to Pornhub. I was underage. I did not send it to anyone to the best of my recollection, and it got hacked from my phone. I was horrified and I reported it and filed a complaint. Police took a statement. I'm waiting for the detective to contact me. Even if the video is taken down it could always come back. This could ruin my life and my future. I'm terrified and I'm traumatized.”
Anastasia said, “There's a video on their site that was taken of me without my knowledge while I was underage. It is still up on their site despite my reporting it numerous times, stating that I'm underage in the video and that it was taken and posted without my consent.”
Linda said, “I'm now 20 years old and I'm a sex and porn trafficking survivor. At the age of nine, my biological mother sold me in exchange for drugs and for money. This happened until I was rescued at the age of 17 and placed in a safe house. For eight years I was raped and beaten, and the video was taped by hundreds of men, women and even married couples. I never thought I would live to be 18 years old. I was hospitalized dozens of times and one time I was forced to drink ammonia until I passed out and was raped for hours after that, even though my mouth and my throat were burning. I was forced to have sex with other children, especially young girls. I still have nightmares and extreme PTSD from this, but it's not fair that my life is so hard now because I was forced into a life of pornography as a child. I've had to get police involved on multiple occasions to get these videos removed from RedTube, owned by MindGeek, and Pornhub, of me being raped as a minor. I don't understand why it's so difficult. Please stop allowing people to make money off the torture and the coercion of children. It's not fair.”
Keira said, “At the age of 15 I was coerced into being filmed during a sex act, and that video was uploaded without my consent to Pornhub. The uploader was also underage, and they had no way of confirming anyone's age or consent. I have been dealing with image issues, PTSD and sexual discomfort since the incident, into adulthood. This is my personal account, and I have heard similar stories from other women. I will never forgive Pornhub for allowing my abuse to be shared publicly and causing me to relive that pain years later.
Amanda said, “Leaked nude photos from when I was underage were put online, allowed to be uploaded by Pornhub and men were allowed to vote on which child was the most attractive. Pornhub told me that there was no point in making a fuss since people had already screenshot the photos, so deleting the video is pointless.”
Tiana said, “When I was 14 years old, someone recorded me performing oral sex without my knowledge or consent. The video was used as blackmail and was shared on Pornhub. Police contacted Pornhub, and it took them a while to delete it. It ruined my life, and people still bring it up to this day.”
Caroline said, “I spent two months begging Pornhub to take down a video of me being orally raped at the age of 15. I was crying, screaming. I had a bloody nose. It was up for a year and a half before I knew about it.”
Beth said, “I was 10 the first time I was raped. My uncle saw those porn stories and used me to play out his fantasies. Two years later I found the videos of me on Pornhub.”
I could go on and on. My time is short. I have many accounts of children who personally reached out to me, whom I've talked to, who have had their abuse immortalized on Pornhub.
All of the following is a small sample of evidence that has been documented on Pornhub in 2020, before the mass deletion of 10 million videos from unverified and unknown users.
Videos on Pornhub are titled “Young Teen Gets Pounded”; “Old Man with Young Teen”; “Young Girl Tricked”; “A Club Where you can Play with Little Girls, and It's So Fun”; “Cute Amateur Teen Drunk and Stoned”; “First BBC on Drugs”; “Stolen Teens' Secret Peeing Scenes”, with video cameras inside girls' toilets videotaping them without their knowledge; “Amateur Sex Tape Stolen from Teen Girl's Computer”; “Daddy Fucks Young Teen Boy Virgin, First Time”; “Tika Virgin from High School Jakarta Grade Two”; “Jovencitas violadas”, meaning “young rape”, from an unknown user; “Drunk Teen Fucked by Black Stranger”; “Innocent Teenage Girls are Used and Exploited”; “Crying Teen”; “Passed Out Teen”; “Very Young South American” with the tags “teenager” and “young”, and a comment says, “This girls looks 13”; “Chinese Northeast Middle School”; “Junior High School Student”; “Anal Crying Teen”; “I'm 14”, with a video of a young boy masturbating; “Gay 14”, a video of a young boy masturbating; and “Pinay Junior High Student”.
I could go on and on. Again, suggested and promoted searches by Pornhub that were found on their site as of 2020 are search terms that Pornhub actually serves up to its consumers: “abused teen”, “crying teen”, “punished teen”, “anal crying teen”, “teen destroyed”, “young Black teen”, “young, tiny teens”, “young girl”, “tiny, young girls”, “sleeping teen”, “middle school sex”, “Snapchat teen”, “middle student”, “stolen teen sex tape”, “stolen teen homemade” and “very young teens”.
As for comments on the site, there are hundreds of documented comments, if not thousands of documented comments, where users are flagging these child sexual abuse material videos to Pornhub, and they're ignored. They're on the site for months and even years. Examples are, “Isn't this technically child porn?”, “She looks 13. That's illegal”, “Wow, she looks like she's 12”, “I'm not legal but I have a winning video”, “She looks nine. Trade CP?”, and “She looks like she's 12, like she hasn't even hit puberty.”
Again, David Tassillo told this committee that, “Child abuse material has no place on our platform. It makes us lose money.” I would like to tell the committee that is not true, because child sexual abuse has made its way to Pornhub in a significant way. Every single video of a child that is found on Pornhub or of an abused adult is heavily monetized. It's monetized with ads of premium memberships, data collection. In some cases it's being directly sold for the profit of Pornhub: 35% to Pornhub and 65% to the person who uploaded the sex act through the model hub program.
I want to point out to the committee that any minor used in a commercial sex act is a victim of sex trafficking according to international law as well as domestic law. I think it's very important for us to realize that.
I also want to make it clear that Pornhub added insult to injury by adding an intentional download button to their system whereby every single video on Pornhub was made available to possess by consumers. It was transferred from MindGeek servers to individuals. One hundred and fifteen million users a day have the ability to commit the federal crime of downloading and possessing child sexual abuse material because Pornhub built that feature into the design of their website.
Feras Antoon said to this committee that “the spread of unlawful content online and...the non-consensual sharing of intimate images...goes against everything we stand for at MindGeek and Pornhub.” He said, “this type of material has no place on our platforms and is contrary to our values and our business model.” He said, “When David and I joined MindGeek in 2008, our goal was to create the most inclusive and safe adult community on the Internet” and that it was designed to value privacy. He said, “We knew this could be possible only if safety and security were our top priority.”
Anne wrote me and said, “Revenge porn is a major issue. I was a victim of it two years ago when I wouldn't take back my ex-fiancé. A couple of weeks later I received a call saying that my private photos I had sent him were uploaded to Pornhub. It was such a hassle to get them down.”
We have scores of testimonies of victims who have experienced the same thing.
Jessica says, “Most of my videos were done by my ex. I was too high to consent. I was blacked out. He put them on Pornhub without my permission.”
The following is a small sample of content on Pornhub as of 2020. On September 24, you could search the initials “GDP”, for “girls do porn”, which is a known sex trafficking operation which Pornhub is well aware is for trafficking victims, and you could turn up 338 results for these sex trafficking victims on the site. Other videos were titled “Fucked Sister Hard in the Ass While She Was Drunk and Sleeping”; “Drunk Girl Gets Handcuffed and Abused Next to the Party”; “Fucked Sleeping Schoolgirl After a Drunk Party”; and “Tinder Girl Passed Out At My House, So I Stuck It in Her Ass”.
Tiziana Cantone was a victim who committed suicide. Her video was on the site as of 2020. Other titles were “Anal Sex With a Drunk Girl”; “Drunk Asian Girl Humped By My Friend”; “Hidden Camera: Girls in the Toilet At Prom”; and “CCTV in Changing Room: Full Naked Hockey Team”. Suggested search terms to users on the site include “real hidden camera”; “hidden camera”; “voyeur”; “spycam shower”; “stop fucking me”; and “rape” in Chinese.
When pressed on the allowance of these kinds of non-consensual and illegal videos on his site, David Tassillo said to this committee, “We are a start-up still.” He said that about a site that is the 10th-largest-trafficked site in the world, and that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year on this content.
In only a couple of minutes more, I want to finish. Feras Antoon told the committee that Pornhub was designed to celebrate freedom of expression. However, there are many instances of extreme racism on the site as of 2020, including “Black Slave Girl Brutalized”; “How to Treat Your Nigger”; “Real Drunk Stupid Chink Whore”; “Racist White Slut Sucks and Fucks Black Dick and Says Nigger”.
Lastly, I want to point out that VP Corey Urman has said in the media many times that they have a vast and extensive team of human moderators that is viewing each and every single video before it is uploaded to the site. I want to tell the committee that I have evidence that, actually, as of early 2020, Pornhub had under 10 moderators per eight-hour shift reviewing content on the site, in Cyprus. They had only 30 to 31 employees per day looking at content, and that's for all of MindGeek tube sites. These constitute the world's largest and most popular tube sites, with millions of videos uploaded per year.
Lastly, David Tassillo said, “We digitally fingerprint any content removed from our site so that it cannot be re-uploaded.” He said this to the committee, but we have emails of Pornhub telling victims that they do not guarantee that their child abuse will not be reuploaded to the site, and they callously tell victims, “Please educate yourself on the limits of our software.”
On behalf of two million people who have signed the petition from 192 countries to hold Pornhub accountable and over 300 organizations around the world that are calling for accountability by Pornhub, I want to thank this committee for taking this issue seriously and for conducting this investigation.
I hope everybody is well today. This is a heavy subject and you've had heavy testimony.
I really want to honour the lives of the victims who have come forward today, Ms. Galy and the two guests that you've had, as well as Ms. Fleites, who appeared last week. It takes an incredible amount of courage for women to come forward. We always say the most important voice is the voice of victims and we must always listen to survivors.
The London Abused Women's Centre last year had 143 women report to us that technology was used in their assault and another 64 reported that pornography was prevalent in their relationship and oftentimes they were forced to play out the scenes in pornography.
One of the women we served, who was involved with Pornhub, wrote, “It was soul destroying to find videos of me Pornhub. Discovering how readily available they were broke me. Being hit with the reality that anyone could see the darkest points of my life nearly killed me. I had to stop looking for more videos after I found four. I was suicidal and have deep-seeded shame about those videos even though I was a child. It causes a fear I can’t put words to.”
One of the common themes we hear from victims of pornography who are not able to have their pictures or images removed is that they feel incredible shame and are oftentimes suicidal. As far as the shame is concerned, we want to make sure they understand any shame and blame they may feel belongs to the abuser and to Pornhub and MindGeek. They do not have a responsibility to feel that. With respect to the suicidal ideations, I want to say that as bad as this is—and I can't even go to a place where I understand that—I believe that with help and counselling there is hope.
We know that Pornhub has facilitated and distributed the uploading of videos of minors being sexually exploited and assaulted. We also know that non-consenting adults and trafficked women have been raped and tortured for the world to see. Pornhub has actively participated in the downloading of these videos, which is leaving a lifelong imprint of trauma in the lives of millions of women.
It took The New York Times' article for Pornhub to remove millions of videos after an investigation showed a large number of them featured underage girls and non-consenting and trafficked women and girls. Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of women and girls. This item alone, which it took The New York Times last year to expose Pornhub on, shows that Pornhub, even though the CEO and the COO acknowledged they were parents and grandparents, really doesn't care about the lives of women and girls.
Many of the videos were posted on Pornhub's website under the headings of “torture porn”, “teen porn” and “fetish porn”, and all of those headings continue to remain in place today.
MindGeek's CEO testified, as you heard from Laila, that “every single piece of content is viewed by our human moderators.” This is an absolute joke. It's ridiculous, and frankly, it's impossible, given how many millions of videos are uploaded. Further, only a team of forensic pediatricians can age girls, not men and women hired at perhaps minimum wage to look at videos all day long of rape scenes, to identify who is underage, who is consenting and who is not.
We know that the goal of MindGeek's CEO and COO is to make millions of dollars so that they can support their lavish lifestyles through their premium, the sale of ads and harvesting and selling their data. None of that would be possible without the exploitation of children and women. In fact, we know from our experience that men will pay more to see children exploited.
I have reviewed sections 162 and 163 of the Criminal Code of Canada. I am not a lawyer, but taken literally, it appears that almost every single section in the code could apply to MindGeek, Pornhub and all of their affiliated businesses as well as their CEO and COO.
In addition to the potential crimes, MindGeek appears to be and likely is in violation of international laws on trafficking and child sexual exploitation, and also has not complied with the mandatory reporting requirements in Canada. Pornhub has facilitated and profited from the exploitation of girls and women.
The London Abused Women's Centre offers a number of recommendations.
The first is that robust funding be made available to support all victims. They are suicidal. This is heartbreaking, and they need to make sure they have access to service.
Given the testimony from at least one survivor who stated that she was sexually exploited as a child, and given the testimony of MindGeek's CEO and COO acknowledging that children and non-consenting women have been exploited on Pornhub, we recommend that the committee immediately send witness statements to the police for a criminal investigation.
Also, given the testimony of MindGeek's CEO and COO acknowledging their failure to self-regulate, it is recommended that Parliament legislate the end of self-regulation by MindGeek, its affiliated and subsidiary companies and the pornography industry.
We recommend that a third party not associated with MindGeek, its affiliated and subsidiary companies or the pornography industry be retained to verify age and consent.
We recommend that Parliament legislate that all credit card companies be prohibited from providing services to MindGeek, its affiliated and subsidiary companies and the pornography industry until the third party recommended in the clause I just read is established.
Finally, I would say that it is recommended that the Canada Revenue Agency conduct a forensic audit and criminal investigation on the finances and ownership of MindGeek and its affiliated and subsidiary companies in order to determine if they are in compliance with the relevant Canadian and international tax, disclosure and other laws and regulations.
It is the role of government to regulate all industries in order to protect its citizens. When an industry is predatory, especially the porn industry, it is incumbent on the government to regulate the production and consumption related to that industry.
I thank you for giving me this time today.
I think it's important to speak to this issue of complicity and knowing in the distribution of this kind of illegal content. I want to give the committee two brief examples, because I am a witness and I want to tell the committee the information that I have on hand and that I have documented as well.
There was, for example—one of many examples—a video of a girl. The title of the video was “School girl is Fucked in Forest”. The tags in the video said “CP” and “Not 18”. The uploader was “UASex”, which would stand for underage sex, for anybody who would be looking at that. In the comments, they actually indicated that the girl was in the ninth grade, that commenters knew who she was and that she was underage. Not only did Pornhub moderators or reviewers look at that video, look at the tags, look at the title, look at the uploader and then approve it, but they featured it. They advertised that video on the site, on the home page, to get more views and more clicks. That is the advertising of child sexual abuse material. I have numerous examples of that.
There is one other instance that was particularly egregious, which I was aware of this year, in 2020, of a very obviously prepubescent, underage girl being anally raped and tortured. She was screaming in the video. It was horrific. This video was uploaded three different times by three different users over a period of weeks. It was reported. The report was documented. It was not taken down. A number of days later, it was reported again. It was documented. It was reported. It was not taken down.
Finally, I facilitated the transfer of the link of this video to the FBI. The FBI then sent it to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and finally they confirmed the video was underage and they made a demand to Pornhub to take it down. Pornhub finally took it down after weeks and tens of thousands of views with a download button so that a hundred million people a day had the opportunity to commit the federal crime of downloading that child sexual abuse material. Then, they left the title, the tags, the views and the link available still to be indexed on Google to continue to drive traffic to their site using that child's sexual abuse.
I have evidence of over 75 such instances, in which you can see that the video was confirmed as child sexual abuse and it was asked to be removed by NCMEC, but they left the data of the videos live on the site even with titles such as “Boy Masturbating Before School”, “She's So Tight” and things like that. It's obviously CSA. That's knowing distribution. That's knowing advertising of child sexual abuse.