MindGeek executives to testify before ethics committee about Pornhub

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Montreal executives from MindGeek, which owns the site PornHub, will be called to testify before a federal committee on Friday about allegations of illegal content on their platforms.

MindGeek CEO Feras Antoon and Company COO David Tassillo will appear before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics starting at 1 p.m.

According to a brief to the committee dated Feb. 1, they will attempt to convince committee members that MindGeek has a "zero tolerance policy towards non-consensual material or the sexual exploitation of children."

They recognize, however, in their brief that despite their "efforts at moderation," there may be some "content that violates their terms of use" that reaches their platforms.

The MindGeek executives' testimonies comes days after Serena Fleites spoke to the committee. Fleites is a young woman whose life was turned upside down, after a video of her was posted on the Pornhub site when she was just 14 years old.

Fleites said it took more than a week for Pornhub to respond to her request for the video to be removed from the platform, and several more weeks to remove it.

By that time, it was too late; the video of her had been downloaded and then uploaded all over the world, she said.

Fleites, now 19, also spoke in a New York Times investigation last December that unveiled the presence of illegal content on Pornhub. The platform denied everything.

After the report appeared, Visa and Mastercard launched investigations into the presence of illegal content on Pornhub and prevented their credit cards from being used on the site.

It was only after that Pornhub reported that it had disabled access to content from unverified user accounts. Only professional studios and users whose identity has been verified can now upload pornographic content.

The ethics committee is conducting a study on the protection of privacy and reputation on platforms such as Pornhub. It intends to present a report with recommendations to the Canadian Parliament.

Opposition party leaders have urged the federal government not to wait for this report before taking action.

The federal Liberals promise to soon introduce a bill to force digital platforms to eliminate all illegal content, including hate speech, the sexual exploitation of minors and violent or extremist content.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.

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