Pornhub Will Ban Uploads From Unverified Users After New York Times Exposé
- Pornhub is banning all uploads from unverified users, instead only allowing them from content partners and members of its Model program.
- It’s also blocking all downloads of content, with the exception of paid downloads within its verified Model program, and launched a new team to look for potential content violations on videos that have already been uploaded.
- Pornhub says it made the decision after an independent review it launched in April, aimed at eliminating illegal content on the site. However, it actually comes days after an explosive NYT report about videos of child sexual assault on the site that Pornhub allows and profits off of.
- It also comes after Visa and Mastercard promised to investigate and potentially end their relationships with Pornhub’s Canada-based parent company, MindGeek. The site also drew criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Pornhub’s New Changes
Pornhub announced sweeping changes Wednesday, including a ban on uploads from unverified users, in an effort to prevent illegal content from spreading on its site.
The change to its upload policy is major for a platform that has built itself on non-professional uploads.
In an official statement it released online, the company explained that uploads can now only be made by content partners and members of Pornhub’s Model program. However, the company said it plans to roll out a broader verification process for regular users sometime next year.
Additionally, Pornhub said its blocking downloads of content effective immediately, with the exception of paid downloads within its verified Model program.
The site also announced an additional layer of content moderation efforts that work alongside the manual and AI tools it already uses. For instance, the company has formed a “Red Team,” which is dedicated to “proactively sweeping content already uploaded for potential violations and identifying any breakdowns in the moderation process.”
Finally, it pledged to publish its first transparency report in 2021, which details the results of its moderation from the previous year.
Changes Follow Allegations of Child Abuse on the Platform
Pornhub attributed these policy changes to an independent review that it launched in April, aimed at eliminating illegal content on the site.
However, what Pornhub didn’t say is that the move actually comes just days after an explosive op-ed from The New York Times.
That report highlighted a number of young girls who appeared in videos on the site without their consent. For instance, it points to the story of a missing 15-year-old whose mother found her after the teen appeared in 58 sex videos. Another 14-year old’s sexual assaults were allegedly found on the site and were reported to authorities by a fellow classmate.
One exploited victim was quoted saying, “Pornhub became my trafficker,” after she was trafficked by her adoptive parents and forced to appear in pornographic videos when she was as young as 9.
In some cases, even after videos were flagged and removed, downloaded copies continued to circulate and bring these victims more harm.
Though offenders are sometimes arrested for these assaults, the writer, Nicholas Kristof, notes that Pornhub escapes all responsibility for sharing and profiting off them. While Pornhub has made some attempts to fight off this type of content, Kristof claimed that they dragged their feet for a long time and aren’t really doing enough.
Expose Prompts Outrage and Investigations
In the wake of the article, Pornhub’s business partners faced a ton of pressure to cut ties with them, with many saying they too were profiting off abuse.
Payment processors like Visa and Mastercard promised to investigate and potentially end their relationships with Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek.
Since MindGeek is a Canadian based business, the country’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, expressed concerns about what was written in the piece. In fact, he pledged to work with police and security agencies to address sex trafficking and child pornography.
Pornhub and MindGeek, for their part, denied the allegations and said they were committed to combating this type of illegal material. However, they ultimately announced these new changes, perhaps to combat the growing outrage.
In response to this, the Times reporter who published the exposé tweeted about the new policies.
“A great deal depends on how responsibly Pornhub implements these, and it hasn’t earned my trust at all, but these seem significant,” Kristof said.
“A great deal will also depend on whether past content, already on the site, is vetted or removed,” he continued.
Still, Kristof emphasized that continued monitoring and pressure will be necessary and added that this lens should be widened to other porn hosting companies.
He also later noted that according to Pornhub, the policies will apply to all MindGeek sites. For reference, MindGeek owns more than 100 websites, production companies, and brands.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Verge) (BBC)
Amazon to Pay Over $30 Million for Alexa and Ring Privacy Violations
Privacy violation charges stack up against the tech giant as the FTC partners up with the DOJ.
Amazon Pays Up
Amazon agreed to a $30 million settlement for each of these complaints over complaints alleging that its Alexa and Ring products violated customer privacy.
The Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department accused Amazon of retaining children’s geolocation data as well as the recordings of their conversations with Alexa. Additionally, the FTC brought another complaint against Amazon’s Ring for violating their customers’ privacy and failing to complement basic security measures.
In addition to the accusations of retaining data, the FTC also charges Amazon with deceiving their customers, saying requests from parents to delete their children’s recordings and other data went ignored despite repeated assurances that parents can delete the data at any time.
Amazon says this data was retained to train their Alexa algorithms to better understand children. But their reasoning does not change law. Their actions are still in violation of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA.
“Amazon’s history of misleading parents, keeping children’s recordings indefinitely, and flouting parents’ deletion requests violated COPPA and sacrificed privacy for profits,” said Samuel Levine, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in the press release regarding the complaint. “COPPA does not allow companies to keep children’s data forever for any reason, and certainly not to train their algorithms.”
The Settlement’s Details
The proposed settlement that Amazon agreed to on Wednesday includes a $25 million civil penalty as well as requirements to both delete the data in question and never use voice recordings of adults or children in the development or creation of a product again.
However approval on this settlement is still needed from the federal courts.
Despite agreeing to the settlement, Amazon denies violating COPPA, saying they designed Amazon Kids for parents to have full control and to comply with the law.
In their complaint against Ring, the FTC accused the company of violating their customers’ privacy by allowing countless employees and hundreds of contractors access to the videos from Ring cameras.
Leading to situations like one in 2017, when a Ring employee watched thousands of videos belonging to dozens of female customers, including those in their bedrooms and bathrooms.
Additionally, the FTC says that Ring did not implement basic security protections for years which allowed hackers to take control of their customers’ accounts, cameras, and videos leading to 55,000 US Ring customers facing hacker attacks. In some cases, hackers could access Ring’s two-way functions to harass, insult, and threaten people – including children. The complaint alleges that Ring’s egregious privacy failings lasted for at least 4 years – between at least 2016 to 2020.
Amazon responded to the complaint saying that RIng had addressed the concerns before the FTC even began their inquiry.
The FTC proposed a settlement of $5.8 million in consumer refunds – as well as a demand for Ring to create a privacy and security program. The settlement also awaits federal court approval.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Axios) (CNBC)
Right-Wingers Are Turning Against Chick-fil-A
Some have accused the company of joining a woke “cult” after learning of its diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative.
Chick-fil-A Goes “Woke”
Conservatives are condemning Chick-fil-A after learning of the fast food chain’s commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Some have accused the brand of bowing “to the Woke mob.” Others have debated boycotting the chain.
It’s unclear when exactly Chick-fil-A began its DEI campaign, but according to LinkedIn, the current Vice President of DEI, Erick McReynolds, has been working in the department since 2020 before taking on his current role in 2021. It is also unclear why right-wingers on Twitter have just now discovered Chick-fil-A’s DEI website, but many spent a chunk of Tuesday morning lambasting the company for working to promote diversity.
Chick-fil-A’s DEI page is titled “Committed to being Better at Together.”
“Modeling care for others starts in the restaurant, and we are committed to ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business,” McReynolds said in a statement on the website.
Chick-fil-A is no stranger to boycott campaigns, though those efforts usually come from the opposite side of the political aisle. The company, known for its strong Christian ties, has been criticized for donating to groups with anti-LGBTQ missions. As a result, many on the left have refused to eat there, while it has been a haven for those on the right.
Conservatives, however, have become increasingly outraged by DEI initiatives. Chick-fil-A’s website, which only vaguely outlines its DEI efforts, still seems to be enough for the right to change its tune about the brand.
“Even our beloved Chick-Fil-A has fallen to the DEI cult,” one person tweeted. “the same agenda that is turning our beloved military woke.”
“It’s becoming an epidemic that even Christian companies are being strong-armed to participate in,” the tweet continued.
Old Clip of Chairman Resurfaces
Some have also started resurfacing an old clip of Chick-fil-A Chairman Dan Cathy speaking on a panel about racism during the summer of 2020. During the discussion, he talked about repentance and said that if you ever see someone who needs their shoes shined, you should do it. He then walked over to a Black person on the panel, got on his knees, and shined their shoes.
“There’s a time in which we need to have, you know, some personal action here, and maybe we need to give them a hug, too,” Cathy said while shining the shoes.
“I bought about 1,500 of these and I gave them to all our Chick-fil-A operators and staff a number of years ago,” Cathy continued, in reference to his shoe-shining brush. “So, any expressions of a contrite heart, of a sense of humility, a sense of shame, a sense of embarrassment begat with an apologetic heart — I think that’s what our world needs to hear today.”
The clip caused a stir when the events first unfolded, and has prompted a new wave of anger now. Some are accusing Cathy of being “a woke, anti-American, anti-white BLM boot licker” who thinks all white people need to shamefully shine the shoes of Black people to apologize for racism, though that is not what he said.
These boycott calls are just the latest from conservatives who have been on a rampage against any company supporting any social cause they deem as “woke.” Earlier this year, the political right took a stand against Bud Light after it included a trans influencer in a sponsored Instagram post. Just last week, Target and Kohls faced boycotts over items in their Pride Month collections.
See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Rolling Stone) (AL)
Bioré Apologizes For Referencing School Shooting in Mental Health Ad Campaign
“Our tonality was completely inappropriate. We are so sorry,” the skincare brand said.
Video Faces Backlash
The skincare brand Bioré apologized this week for partnering with a school shooting survivor as part of its Mental Health Awareness Month campaign.
“We are committed to continuing our mental health mission, but we promise to do it in a better way,” the company said in an Instagram post on Sunday.
Last week, influencer and recent Michigan State University graduate Cecilee Max-Brown posted a video to TikTok sponsored by Bioré where she discussed the numerous challenges she had faced throughout the year. Among them was a school shooting on her college’s campus, which killed three people in February.
“Life has thrown countless obstacles at me this year, from the school shooting to having no idea what life is going to look like after college,” Max-Brown says in the video. “In honor of mental health awareness month, I’m partnering with Bioré skin care to strip away the stigma of anxiety.
“We want you to get it all out, not only what’s in your pores, but most importantly, what’s on your mind, too,” she continued.
In the 50-second video, Max-Brown went on to discuss more details about her mental health struggles, as well as how “seeing the effects of gun violence firsthand” has impacted her and led to “countless anxiety attacks.”
“I will never forget the feeling of terror that I had walking around campus for weeks in a place I considered home,” she said before closing the video by encouraging her followers to participate in Bioré’s mental health campaign.
The video ignited swift outrage from people who accused Bioré of using a school shooting to sell products. In its apology, the brand admitted the video was misguided.
In the past, Bioré said it has worked with influencers to discuss and reduce mental health stigmas, as the subject is a top priority for its consumers.
“This time, however, we did it the wrong way,” the company said. “We lacked sensitivity around an incredibly serious tragedy, and our tonality was completely inappropriate. We are so sorry.”
Max-Brown also apologized on TikTok, writing that the video was intended to spread awareness, not suggest a product fixed the struggles she has experienced as a result of the shooting.
“I did not mean to desensitize the traumatic event that took place as I know the effects that it has had on me and the Spartan community,” she wrote.
Max-Brown has since removed the initial sponsored video from her account.