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Pornhub Announces Updated User Verification Process and Increased Moderation Efforts

Do these increased security measures mean that the content featured on Pornhub moving forward is safe and healthy to consume?

By February 3, 2021No Comments

In a statement released earlier this week, porn site giant Pornhub announced more details on how it plans to address abuse on its platform. These plans include expanding its human moderation team, an upcoming transparency report, and introducing biometric technology to verify users who upload videos, reports Vice.

This announcement follows the December New York Times exposé that detailed survivors’ allegations of Pornhub hosting child exploitation material, image-based abuse, and other nonconsensual content. Following that article, major payment processors including Visa and Mastercard, announced they’d be indefinitely severing ties with the site, suspending payment processing for Pornhub.

Days after Visa and Mastercard’s announcement, Pornhub banned all non-verified users from posting to the site, and deleted all content uploaded from unverified accounts—which amounted to more than 10 million videos and 80% of all videos on the platform. It also suspended new verifications of user profiles, pending revised policies.

Related: The New York Times Exposé That Helped Spark The Possible Beginning Of The End Of Pornhub

Pornhub’s statement this week said that verification will still be limited to people in Pornhub’s Model Program, and verification will be done by Yoti, a digital identity verification company, “by providing a current photo and government-approved identification document.”

“Yoti will check the validity of the ID document and match the user’s ID document to their photo using secure biometric technology,” according to the statement.

Vice reports that other portions of the expanded policies include details about how moderators will work going forward, including that they will “regularly monitor search terms within the platform for increases in phrasings that attempt to bypass the safeguards in place.” A Motherboard investigation in 2020 found that Pornhub users could bypass the platform’s moderation efforts with slightly modified search terms.

Moderators will also be trained more rigorously, Vice reports, and offered support and therapy.

“Content moderators will also undergo further exhaustive training to identify potentially illegal material and testing,” Pornhub said. “If needed, content moderators have access to specialized support, including wellness benefits and therapeutic measures, to support them in their critical work.”

These changes are long overdue, seeing as trafficking survivors, child abuse survivors, and survivors of image-based abuse have called for increased security to the site for years. But is this too little, too late? Do these increased security measures mean that the content featured on Pornhub moving forward is safe and healthy to consume? And what about the other mainstream sites also owned by the parent company that owns and operates Pornhub—will other sites also have their site security increased and verification processes updated?

Related: Visa And Mastercard Sever Ties With Pornhub Due To Abusive Content On The Site

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There’s no such thing as ethical or healthy porn

Here’s a harsh truth. Ready? Pornhub can have all the verification steps possible, but it would still not guarantee that only consensual content would end up on the site.

Porn proponents can often justify supporting their site of choice by believing the content they’re consuming is legitimate, legal, and free of any exploitation. The problem with this is that there really is no reliable way to tell if what is being watched is free of exploitation, coercion, trafficking, force, or abuse. Well-known and established porn performers can and are still abused on mainstream sets.

RelatedInside The Industry: Performers Speak Out On Trafficking And Exploitation In Porn

Consider how, even amidst Pornhub’s more advanced verification and moderation processes, there is still no formal process for performers to report abuse and exploitation on set.

Abuse is deeply woven into the fabric of today’s porn industry—not only as fetishized violent genres but also as legitimate issues—so it doesn’t serve the industry’s interest to crack down on it. One porn site, ManyVids, created a free mental health hotline for performers as a hopeful solution to the many tragic performer deaths in 2018. But this leaves it up to the victims to take action, and doesn’t proactively address the root issue.

See how many layers there are in addressing this urgent problem? Performers are habitually demeaned, abused, and exploited, with no real means to report it without backlash and hold abusers accountable.

And even if consent can be guaranteed, that doesn’t cancel out the other harmful impacts porn can have on individuals, relationships, and society.

Related: If A Porn Performer Is Abused During Filming, Where Do They Report It?

The effects of porn, even if it’s exploitation-free

Even if there was a way to tell that everything you clicked on was exploitation-free, there are still harmful effects pornography leaves on the consumer’s brain and relationships that make porn a public health issue for our society.

Study after study has shown that contrary to popular belief, porn is bad news for long term relationships. It negatively affects satisfaction within the relationship and ultimately can lead a person to withdraw from a loved one.

Related: Does Porn With Your Partner Help Your Relationship In The Long-Run?

Back in 2012, a study reported that individuals who didn’t consume porn had higher relationship quality on every measure, including commitment, compared with those who consumed explicit material in private.

newer study published in 2017 examined the impact of couples where one partner consumes more porn than the other, which is a pretty common pattern. The researchers concluded, “greater discrepancies between partners in pornography use were related to less relationship satisfaction, less stability, less positive communication, and more relational aggression.”

And these are issues research has shown to have an impact over the long run.

In one of the few studies to follow married couples and their pornography consumption for several years, researchers found that porn did in fact harm relationship quality and satisfaction. The researchers concluded:

“In general, married persons who more frequently viewed pornography in 2006 reported significantly lower levels of marital quality in 2012… Pornography’s effect was not simply a proxy for dissatisfaction with sex life or marital decision-making in 2006. In terms of substantive influence, the frequency of pornography use in 2006 was the second strongest predictor of marital quality in 2012.”

In other words, how often a partner (specifically, husbands in this study) consumed porn negatively affected the relationship quality, and even more interesting, the study discussed that porn was not a cover-up for some other marital issue. It was the source of the problem.

Related: 30 National Surveys Reveal Porn Consumption Is Associated With Poorer Relationship Quality

Relationship experts, Doctors John and Julie Gottman, explain it this way:

“When watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control with the partner. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control… the relationship goal of intimate connection is confounded and ultimately lost.”

The truth is, in healthy relationships, you can’t have it both ways. Studies show consumers can’t perpetually have the instant gratification of thousands of virtual sex partners and a satisfying long-term relationship.

See how porn can be harmful, even in a hypothetical world of “exploitation-free” porn?

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Consent is still an issue

Even considering moderation and advanced verification processes, it is near impossible to know if what a consumer is watching was created in a legitimate, safe, completely consensual environment. There is no way to tell if the performers on screen are there on their own will, or if they were forced or coerced into taking part in the film—even consent talks and exit interviews can sometimes be lies.

Related: Are Porn Sites Protecting Victims Of Nonconsensual Content? We Investigated, Here’s What We Found

This sounds extreme, we know, given that there are a number of outspoken and enthusiastic porn performers who share their work and love for the industry all over social media and the internet at large. But the reality is that it can be impossible to distinguish between a willing performer and a coerced performer.

If you don’t believe us—or the many studies and personal accounts—believe this: pornography, no matter how “ethical” you believe it to be, is still harmful, and a public health issue. No amount of “exploitation-free” porn can erase the facts.