Monday, September 27

It’s a sign of a broken system when only credit card companies can force Pornhub to switch | Opinion

OROn December 4, New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof published a column titled Children of Pornhub. Pornhub attracts 3.5 billion visitors a month, raises money from 3 billion ad impressions a day and, says Kristof, “prides itself on being the happy face and winking naughty, the website that buys a billboard in Times Square and provides snowplows to clean Boston streets. Donations to organizations that fight for racial equality and offers free and exciting content to help people get through the Covid-19 closures. “

If you feel like a “but” is coming, you are spot on. Kristof continues: “There is another side to the company: their site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes rape of minors, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynistic content, and images of women suffocated in plastic bags. A search for ‘girls under 18 “(no space) or ’14 years’ each leads to more than 100,000 videos. Most are not of assaulted children, but many are.”

Like much of Kristof’s journalism, it is a surprising and unsettling piece. But it’s not the first time that Pornhub has come under scrutiny. In February, the BBC published a report about a girl who had been raped at the age of 14 and discovered that the video of the attack had been posted on Pornhub. In September, the FBI offered a $ 10,000 tip bounty to a New Zealander who ran a channel called GirlsDoPorn on Pornhub. With three others, he had been accused with sex trafficking offenses in connection with a scheme to deceive and coerce young women into appearing in sex videos.

These and other reports did not appear to have much traction, but due to the scope and prestige of the New York Times, Kristof’s piece did it, and suddenly the spotlight came on MindGeek, the mysterious private company that owns Pornhub (along with many other porn sites). Although operating from Canada, MindGeek is legally registered in Luxembourg. You would never guess from his advertising what he really does for a living: your website He describes it as “a world-leading information technology company with headquarters in Luxembourg with offices in Nicosia, London, Montreal, Bucharest and Los Angeles.”

Pornhub is essentially a specialized social media site – consider YouTube for porn. People can upload unreliable videos and are hosted on the site with relatively little (if any) moderation. So it’s not surprising that Pornhub suffers from the same chronic issues with user-generated content as YouTube and Facebook. But it took Kristof’s article to put a bomb under its owner. When MindGeek started to feel the heat, its first step was to ban unverified user uploads and disable video downloads, to make it harder for users to save a copy of an abusive video to reload elsewhere. But this, of course, made millions of previously uploaded videos available, so eventually MindGeek disconnected all videos from unverified users. Fagot! Terabytes of garbage disappeared down the digital drain.

It would be nice, this holiday season, to think that MindGeek suddenly saw the moral light. Also, it would be nice to see the pigs fly in close formation. Fabulously profitable corporations don’t do ethics. So what changed? Simply this: On December 10, Mastercard and Visa announced that they had banned the use of his cards on Pornhub. It’s the old story, in other words: money talks.

What can we learn from this? The first and most obvious lesson is that if we want to change the behavior of tech corporations, the key focus of regulation must be on their business models. Companies like Facebook, YouTube, and MindGeek make money by allowing anyone to upload anything – good, bad, and inconceivable – and then monetizing the user engagement generated by that free content. Appealing to the best angels of their owners to clean up their sites is simply foolish. The business model that benefits from maximizing user engagement is what needs to be addressed and regulated. MindGeek only moved when the handle on its money pump was suddenly removed.

Another lesson is that corporations shouldn’t have to rely on corporations like Mastercard and Visa to regulate for them. As the writer Cory Doctorow put it in a blunt blog post: “We should be concerned about the increasing monopolization of payment processing, and the role that payment processors are beginning to play as gatekeepers of all kinds of activities. Mastercard and Visa are not qualified to make those calls. More importantly, no one chose them to make those calls. “

He is right. Satisfaction with the fact that MindGeek was pressured to remove all the abusive material that had made it to Pornhub should be tinged with the fact that it was a couple of payment processing monopolies that flipped the switch. But they could do the exact same thing for a site that some, or at least many, of us approve of and support. If we persist in outsourcing these decisions to the corporations, they will effectively become sovereigns and we their subjects.

What i’ve been reading

Look east
James Crabtree’s long article in Noema magazine in China’s radical new view on globalization It’s the most interesting thing I’ve read about China in quite some time.

Jump before you can fly
There is a delicious essay by Ashutosh Jogalekar in 3 Quarks Daily on Birds and Frogs in Physics.

Social mafia
The end of the crime wave on Facebook is an invigorating blog post by Matt Stoller, a long-time anti-monopoly activist.

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