Pornhub sued by 40 Girls Do Porn sex trafficking victims

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The 40 victims are seeking at least $1m each in the Californian court

Pornhub has been sued by 40 women who say it profited from a sex-trafficking operation by a content partner.

The women were all victims of Girls Do Porn, whose owners have been charged with offences by US officials.

The victims allege that Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek knew of the allegations against the company, but continued a partnership anyway.

It comes as Pornhub finds itself cut off from customer payments amid a scandal over illegal content.

Payment providers Mastercard and Visa have cut ties with the site after a New York Times investigation accused it of hosting child abuse and rape-related content.

The NYT exposé follows a BBC investigation which exposed the repeated uploading of a child rape to the site and the impact it has had on the victim's life.

The move has left the site - one of the world's most popular - with cryptocurrency options like Bitcoin as the only way to pay for subscriptions.

What is the court case about?

The 40 women - of all whom are referred to by the pseudonym Jane Doe and a number - are demanding a jury trial and seeking more than $1m (£739,000) each.

Details of the suit are contained in a legal filing first reported by Vice.

Girls Do Porn was a part of MindGeek's partner programmes until October 2019, when the US Department of Justice effectively shut the porn producer down by arresting and charging its senior staff.

Pornhub and other MindGeek sites removed the Girls Do Porn channel as soon as the charges were made - but the complaint alleges that "at this point, there was no longer a company left for MindGeek to partner with".

Victims had repeatedly contacted the company to complain and tell them about the problems, it says. The first court case on behalf of victims was lodged in June 2016.

"As early as 2009, and definitely by fall 2016, MindGeek knew Girls Do Porn was trafficking its victims by using fraud, coercion, and intimidation," the court complaint says.

"Despite this knowledge, MindGeek continued to partner with Girls Do Porn, never bothering to investigate or question its business partner regarding the mounting evidence of sex trafficking that MindGeek received. "

The company "simply did not care... until it was no longer profitable".

The complaint also says the videos have remained online even after the sex-trafficking charges were filed, with some visible as recently as 12 December.

MindGeek has been contacted for comment on the Jane Does' legal filing.

What was Girls Do Porn accused of?

The legal documents also lay out the historic claims of abuse against Girls Do Porn which were behind that company's senior staff being arrested.

The site operated by advertising for modelling jobs, before telling the young women who applied that it was, in fact, for a pornographic adult video.

In order to convince the women to take part, they were told that the job would be anonymous and that their videos would not be posted on the internet - instead being sent on physical media for release in a distant market. In fact, the entire point of the shoot was to release the videos online to be visible in North America.

Owners Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, along with two employees, have been charged in a US federal court with sex-trafficking crimes.

US attorneys say "the circumstances were not at all what was promised".

They say some women were pressured into signing documents without reading them or threatened with legal action; some were "not permitted to leave the shooting locations until the videos were made"; and some were "forced to perform certain sex acts they had declined to do, or they would not be paid or allowed to leave".

And the complaint says some were sexually assaulted, and in at least one case raped.

Michael Pratt remains a fugitive on the FBI's most-wanted list, for both sex-trafficking crimes and the production of child pornography. Mr Wolfe is awaiting trial.

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