Sen. Sasse: DOJ Must Investigate Pornhub for Alleged 'Videos of Raped and Exploited Women'

By Michael W. Chapman | March 11, 2020 | 10:55am EDT
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

( -- Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) sent a letter on March 9 to Attorney General William Barr urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the popular porn site, Pornhub, for its alleged involvement  as a channel used to exploit "children and other victims and survivors of sex trafficking."

"The foremost duty of the Department of Justice is to ensure the safety of the American people, especially the most vulnerable among us," stated Sasse in the letter.  "In that vein, I write to you today regarding the exploitation of human trafficking victims in pornography streamed over the internet. Action must be taken."

Sen. Ben Sasse (r-Neb.)   (Getty Images)
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) (Getty Images)

The senator then explained that Pornhub allows for the "sharing and streaming" of pornographic videos on the Internet and is owned by the Luxembourg-registered, Canadian-headquartered firm MindGeek Holding SARL.

Pornhub is the 34th most popular website in the United States. According to its own data, in 2019 there were 42 billion visits to Pornhub, an average of 115 million visits every day. "[T]hat’s the equivalent of the populations of Canada, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands all visiting in one day!" states the website. 

"In several notable incidents over the past year, Pornhub made content available worldwide showing women and girls that were victims of trafficking being raped and exploited," said Sen. Sasse.  "In October, police in Florida arrested a man trafficking a fifteen-year-old girl, missing from her family for nearly a year, who had been subjected to horrific abuse that included [alleged] repeated rape and a forced abortion."

The man arrested in October 2019 is Christopher Johnson, from Broward County, Florida. Johnson was charged with felony lewd or lascivious battery on a victim between 12 and 16, according to the Sun Sentinel

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

"The girl later told detectives many of the videos of her having sex with Johnson had been recorded at his apartment," reported the Sun Sentinel. In addition, "the victim stated that she got pregnant from the defendant and he took her to the clinic to have an abortion,” said Detective Adam Granit in the police report. 

The Sun Sentinel further reported, "Police investigated and discovered nearly 60 pornographic videos of the girl posted on Periscope, Pornhub, Modelhub, Snapchat and other websites, according to an arrest report."

Johnson has denied the charges. 

Attorney General William P. Barr  (Getty Images)
Attorney General William P. Barr (Getty Images)

"In the course of his abuse, her trafficker uploaded more than sixty videos depicting her sexual exploitation to websites including Pornhub," said Sasse.  "In another instance, your Department charged the two owners and two other employees of a popular pornographic film production company with a variety of sex trafficking offenses for employing a disturbing array of deceptive and coercive means to force women to make pornography that they later uploaded to Pornhub against their will."

"Indeed, the problem of Pornhub streaming content featuring women and children victims of sex trafficking reached the point in November that PayPal cut off services for Pornhub, refusing to facilitate this abuse any longer," wrote the senator. 

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Sasse then presented data on how much video content is uploaded to Pornhub every day; during every minute of 2019 at Pornhub there were "80,032 visits, 77,861 searches, and 219,985 video views."

"In light of this data, these publicized cases clearly represent just the tip of the iceberg of women and children being exploited in videos on Pornhub," said Sasse. "I applaud the actions that the Department has already undertaken under your leadership on this issue, but Pornhub must not escape scrutiny."

"I therefore request that the Department open an investigation into Pornhub and its parent entity MindGeek Holding SARL for their involvement in this disturbing pipeline of exploiting children and other victims and survivors of sex trafficking," wrote the senator. 

On March 5, the DOJ announced measures it was taking with the Department of Homeland Security and international partners to "counter online child sexual exploitation and abuse." These "voluntary principles" were announced after law enforcement leaders from five countries consulted with senior representatives of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter. 

As stated by the DOJ, the voluntary principles cover the following themes:

  • Prevent child sexual abuse material;
  • Target online grooming and preparatory behavior;
  • Target livestreaming;
  • Prevent searches of child sexual abuse material from surfacing;
  • Adopt a specialized approach for children;
  • Consider victim/survivor-led mechanisms; and
  • Collaborate and respond to evolving threats.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation praised the DOJ but stressed that "efforts will fall short unless the major adult obscenity websites accessed by millions across the globe are prosecuted."

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The organization added, "we also know that the consumption of adult obscenity leads many to seek out harder and more deviant pornography including child pornography. Researchers have found that individuals who begin consuming adult pornography at a younger age were more likely to engage in later use of pornography depicting animals and children than those with a later age of first use."

“Therefore, the federal government ought to enforce adult obscenity laws, which have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court, if they are ever going to decrease the demand for child sexual abuse material,” said NCOSE President Pat Truman. 

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