Pornhub owner settles lawsuit with 50 women, including four Canadians

Pornhub owner MindGeek has settled a U.S. lawsuit involving 50 women, including four Canadians, who had alleged they were duped into a massive sex-trafficking operation.

Brian Holm, a California-based lawyer who represented the complainants in the lawsuit, confirmed to CTV News the lawsuit has been settled.

“The parties reached a mutual resolution to resolve the dispute and the terms are confidential,” Holm wrote in a statement, but declined to comment further.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in April 2021, alleged that porn provider GirlsDoPorn had lied about how sexually explicit videos of them would be used.

In several cases, women were told their videos would be sold on DVD in foreign countries, when, in fact, they were uploaded on the Internet without their consent, the lawsuit claimed.

MindGeek, whose headquarters are in Montreal, its flagship website Pornhub, and credit card processing firm Probiller.com are all listed as defendants in the suit. 

MindGeek partnered with GirlsDoPorn until October 2019 when it was shut down after the Department of Justice charged its four principals with sex trafficking and other charges. One of the four, Michael James Pratt, is at large and remains on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $50,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

The lawsuit alleged that MindGeek earned millions of dollars in revenue by partnering with GirlsDoPorn and by sharing their videos on Pornhub and its affiliate porn websites for years.

“MindGeek knew it was partnering with, distributing revenue to, and profiting from a sex trafficking venture for years. MindGeek also knew of the significant harassment and trauma GirlsDoPorn’s victims were enduring as a result of its continued publication of the victims’ videos,” the lawsuit alleged.

According to the lawsuit, “MindGeek simply did not care and continued to partner with GirlsDoPorn until it was no longer profitable.”

None of the allegations in the lawsuit were proven or tested in court.

A MindGeek spokesperson named Ian, whose full name and position were not disclosed, sent the following statement to CTV, and also indicated that the terms of the settlement are confidential.

“MindGeek has zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted a comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate any illegal material from its community. We are committed to remaining at the forefront of Internet safety, and taking every measure to prevent bad actors from posting illegal content online,” the company’s statement read.

'THIS COMPANY LIED TO ME,' PLAINTIFF ALLEGED

Several of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit requested Pornhub remove their videos after realizing they had been uploaded to the Internet.

One of the four Canadian plaintiffs, identified as Jane Doe No. 36, wrote to Pornhub in January 2016 begging them to remove her video.

“That’s what I am trying to explain is that I did not consent to being online!!! :(((( me and other girls are being brutally harassed,” she wrote, according to the lawsuit.

“Jane Doe No. 36 followed up with MindGeek a few days later advising the Defendants she and her boyfriend were in therapy because of the continued publication of the videos.”

In another case, a U.S. citizen identified as Jane Doe No. 11, sent at least three requests over a nine-month period for Pornhub to remove a video of her on an affiliate website, Tube8.com.

“I WAS SCAMMED. THIS COMPANY LIED TO ME ABOUT THIS BEING ON THE INTERNET! THEY TOLD ME IT WOULD ONLY BE AVAILIBLE (sic) ON DVD IN AUSTRALIA. MY WORK FRIENDS AND FAMILY ALL KNOW AND THIS VERY LINK IS BEING SENT AROUND. I WANT TO JUST DIE,” the woman wrote in her request on May 31, 2017. 

MindGeek agreed to remove the video only after GirlsDoPorn’s principals were arrested in October 2019, according to the lawsuit.

LAWSUIT CLAIMED WOMEN RESPONDED TO MODELLING ADS

The lawsuit had sought millions of dollars in damages for each of the 50 plaintiffs. 

GirlsDoPorn duped several young women into being a part of the sex trafficking operation by offering them large sums of money after they had replied to online ads for clothed modelling opportunities and used “fraud, coercion and intimidation” to coerce the women into performing pornographic acts, the lawsuit alleged.

MindGeek has been in the crosshairs of parliamentarians and advocates against sexual exploitation in recent years as calls grow for greater accountability for websites that host non-consensual explicit videos and photos. 

MindGeek announced last December that it would ban user-uploaded content in an attempt to better control the content that gets onto its websites, including Pornhub — the eighth most popular website in the U.S.

The company has also been the subject of a House of Commons ethics committee study following a New York Times investigation into the Montreal-based enterprise. The committee recommended making online platforms liable for failing to ensure that material is deleted quickly, or else face financial penalties.

In July, the federal government also proposed the creation of new powers to block online platforms that repeatedly refuse to remove harmful content, including the sharing of non-consensual images and child exploitation. 
 

Read the complaint here

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