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Pornhub Will Ban Uploads From Unverified Users After New York Times Exposé

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  • 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)

Business

Tencent Stock Plummet as Company Weighs Video Games Ban for Kids in China

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The world’s largest game developer appears fearful that the Chinese government will launch another crackdown on gaming similar to one it launched in 2019 when it limited game time for minors.


No More Video Games

Tencent Holdings, Ltd. — China’s most valuable corporation and the world’s largest gaming company — announced Tuesday that it would consider completely banning games for those under 12-years-old in China.

Tencent also announced that it will now limit playtime for Chinese minors to just 1 hour during weekdays and no more than 2 hours during weekends and holidays. Under a Chinese law set up in 2019, game developers are required to limit minors to just 1 hour and 30 minutes of playtime during weekdays and 3 hours during weekends and holidays.

Additionally, the company explained that it will move forward with plans to enact systems that bar those under 12 from engaging in microtransactions, starting with the largest mobile game, “Honor of Kings” (王者荣耀). It’s possible the ban will extend to some of Tencent’s other holdings, such as “League of Legends” (Riot Games) and “Path of Exile” (Grinding Gear Games), although these changes will likely only affect Chinese users.

Tencent’s decision comes just a day after the Economic Information Daily, a subsidiary of state media giant Xinhua News, said in a now-deleted article that video games were “spiritual opium” and that no industry should continue in a manner that will “destroy a generation.”

Likening video games to opium holds cultural significance in China, which has long disliked narcotics and is sensitive to comparisons to the drug. Using such language, especially by state media, is often seen as a sign that the government is ready to crack down on the industry.

Crackdown Fears

Those fears largely played out over a 24-hour period as shares for Tencent and NetEase, another large game developer in China, plummeted. Tencent’s shares dropped by 11% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, although it eventually settled at just a 6% loss by the end of Tuesday.

It wasn’t just Chinese gaming companies that were worried. The announcement sent ripples across the entire industry as Nintendo, Capcom, and Nexon shares all were heavily affected as well. One of the reasons that such an article can cast widespread concern is that China has increasingly become the largest market in the $180 billion video game industry, making it larger than the global movie industry and North American professional sports, combined.

Coupled with the recent fall of ActivisionBlizzard’s stock over the last two weeks due to its sexual assault lawsuit and other industry shakeups, over a trillion dollars of market value was wiped out at one point on Tuesday.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Time) (Fox Business)

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Google Is Banning “Sugar Dating” Apps as Part of New Sexual Content Restrictions

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The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms.


Sugar Dating Crackdown

Google has announced a series of policy changes to its Android Play Store that include a ban on sugar dating apps starting September 1.

The company’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.”

Now, it has updated its wording to specifically include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”

The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms currently available for download.

Search results for “Sugar Daddy” on Google’s Play Store

What Prompted the Change?

The company didn’t explain why it’s going after sugar dating apps, but some reports have noted that the move comes amid crackdowns of online sex work following the introduction of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation in 2018, which was meant to curb sex trafficking.

That’s because FOSTA-SESTA created an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers can be held liable if third parties are found to be promoting prostitution, including consensual sex work, on their platforms.

It’s worth noting that just because the apps will no longer be available on the Play Store doesn’t mean the sugar dating platforms themselves are going anywhere. Sugar daters will still be able to access them through their web browsers, or they can just sideload their apps from other places.

Still, the change is likely going to make the use of these sites a little less convenient.

See what others are saying: (The Verge)(Engadget)(Tech Times)

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Activision Blizzard CEO Apologizes for “Tone Deaf” Response to Harassment Suit, Unsatisfied Employees Stage Walkout

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Organizers of a Wednesday walkout say they “will not return to silence” and “will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point.”


CEO Apologizes

After a week of growing criticism against its workplace culture, the CEO of Activision Blizzard has finally apologized for how the company first responded to allegations of sexual harassment and assault in its offices.

“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf,” CEO Bobby Kotick said Tuesday in a letter to employees. “It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.” 

In its initial response, Activision Blizzard denounced the disturbing allegations brought forth in a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) as “irresponsible.” The company added that it came from “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”

But many current and former employees soon disputed that claim. In fact, at the time, more than 2,500 had signed their name to an open letter condemning the company for its response, which they described as “abhorrent and insulting” to survivors. 

In his letter, Kotick promised employees that Blizzard will take “swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for.”

As part of a series of new policies, he said the company will now offer additional employee support and listening sessions, as well as potential personnel changes to leadership.

“Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated,” he added.

Kotick also said Blizzard will add “compliance resources” to ensure that leadership is adhering to diverse hiring directives.

Lastly, he promised that the company will remove “inappropriate” in-game content. In a similar statement on Tuesday, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft team said it’s actively working to remove “references that are not appropriate for our world,” though it didn’t specify what those references were. 

It now appears that many of the references being removed are of the game’s former Senior Creative Director, Alex Afrasiabi, who is cited in the lawsuit as someone who hit on and made unwanted advances at female employees. Moreover, the suit also directly accuses him of groping one woman.

“Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite” during company events “was nicknamed the “[Cosby] Suite” after alleged rapist Bill [Cosby],” the suit claims. 

Blizzard Walkout

Organizers of a company-wide employee walkout, which was announced Tuesday and occurred Wednesday, still argue that Kotick’s latest message doesn’t address their larger concerns.

Among those are “the end of forced arbitration for all employees,” “worker participation in oversight of hiring and promotion policies,” “the need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality,” and “employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.”

“We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point.”

Ahead of the walkout, Blizzard reportedly encouraged its own employees to attend, saying those workers would face no repercussions and “can have paid time off” during the demonstration, according to The Verge. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Polygon) (CNBC)

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