‘It’s a problem in the entire industry’: Sex workers on the calls to boycott PornHub

‘They have the money to do better and they need to’

A petition to boycott Pornhub has reached over a million signatures. The campaign behind this petition, #TraffickingHub, aims to expose PornHub’s submission process for its alleged lack of verification and regulation. The #TraffickingHub campaign alleges that because of the lack of verification needed to submit videos to Pornhub, videos of underage and un-consenting women can be submitted, allowing this abuse to be broadcasted and PornHub to profit off it.

But for the women who rely on porn to make a living, it’s not that simple. Sex workers who make money off OnlyFans and PornHub have mixed feelings about the boycott, with some backing it and some who are completely opposed. With influencers like Caroline Calloway now dominating OnlyFans and using their already large online followings to make money from nude shots, PornHub is one of the best ways of promoting content.

Not only that, but the verification issues mentioned in the #traffickinghub campaign are not exclusive to PornHub. OnlyFans accounts must be set up with an 18+ ID but there are no identity checks. You don’t have to be the same person in your pictures as the person in the original ID, it is not checked. Accounts with large followings can be sold and transferred to someone entirely different to the original owner. No site is perfect, but porn is necessary, and sex workers want you to know that.

Gwenna Plum, a sex worker who uses both OnlyFans and PornHub to promote her work, told The Tab: “Verification is a problem in the entire industry. You can upload videos of people without their consent on OnlyFans or any website, not just PornHub. There are OnlyFans accounts out there which make money off stolen content. It’s an issue everywhere. Minors can literally just find someone who is 18 to verify for them and post whatever after it is verified, because they don’t check to see if the ID even matches the person. You can change your URL on OnlyFans at anytime and people sell their accounts to newbies all the time… are those popular models doing background checks on the people buying the accounts from them? No.” OnlyFans also require bank account verification as well as photo ID in order for creators to make money.

Gwenna advertises her content on PornHub because it is the biggest porn site in the industry. She says advertising on OnlyFans is no longer enough because of how over saturated the site is becoming. “As sex workers we know how many hits come from PornHub compared to other sites. OnlyFans doesn’t really even have a discover page so to be on OnlyFans you have to do one hundred percent of your advertising which is different than being on PornHub where you have to learn how to use tags and titles to get more views.

“If you blow up on PH you could be raking 10k a month on videos you posted last year. If I don’t upload seven times a week on OnlyFans I lose subscribers. We go where we have to when people like Caroline Calloway are making jabs at of us for being sex workers without huge platforms.”

In an ideal world, Gwenna would not ban PornHub, but make the whole payment process easier for the creators and models on all porn sites. She told The Tab: “In a perfect world I wish payment apps and banks weren’t at odds with sex workers. I think direct sales are everybody’s preference unless someone’s concerned about convenience. I am thankful for subscription sites like OnlyFans and ManyVids making verification easier to get to clients, but every process needs to be updated.

But Gwenna is not blind to the alleged harm being caused by PornHub’s verification process. “I’m not defending PornHub’s practices,” she says. “I don’t agree with their upload policy and have read about the harm they have [allegedly] caused to multiple victims. In my perfect world they would change their upload policy to verified models ONLY. This isn’t even including other issues PornHub has outside of that. The company has too much money to not have a better system of flagging stolen content and in that same thought PH’s [alleged] victims deserve PornHub to change their policies. They can’t just strive to be better, they can do better and they need to.”

Lily is a creator on OnlyFans

Lily, another OnlyFans creator, feels the same. She told The Tab: “If we could take away the notion that you can gain access to videos of anything on earth happening to women’s bodies – without their knowledge of it – being accessible FOR FREE then the respect for sex work would rise a great deal, as it should.”

Ivy Storm, who runs a Twitter account called Sex Worker Online Safety, providing tech and online support for sex workers, disagrees. She says PornHub do in fact pay their creators directly, and they took this even more seriously during the pandemic, when sex workers’ wages were suffering. “Creators are directly compensated for their work on PornHub,” Ivy told The Tab. “They gave 85 per cent revenue on model clip sales throughout the months of April and May due to the pandemic.” However PornHub is still the middle man in this sense, as opposed to OnlyFans where viewers pay creators directly for their content.

Compensation aside, all porn sites need to answer to the calls for better verification processes to avoid underage and unconsensual content being uploaded. The general feeling from sex workers is that boycotting or shutting down these sites is not the answer, but increasing their safety and regulation is. As Gwenna said: “We are in a pandemic. So many sex workers are doing this just to survive.”

A spokesperson for PornHub said: “Since its inception 6 years ago, Pornhub’s Model Program has been a welcoming platform, designed to help creators enjoy success and get their content in front of large and diverse audiences. The creation of content is a form of expression that is fully supported by Pornhub. As an advocate for freedom of expression, our platform exists as a resource for a community made up of artists, groups, models, animators, studios and more with different objectives when it comes to sharing their work. Content created for monetization in our Model Program requires that the uploader be identified with a valid, Government issued ID.

“Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and under-age material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate. Our content moderation goes above and beyond the recently announced, internationally recognized Voluntary Principles to
Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

“Pornhub has actively worked to put in place state-of-the-art, comprehensive safeguards across its platform to combat and remove all unauthorized content that breaches the platform’s policies. This includes employing an extensive team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing every single upload. This allows us to take proactive action against illegal content. In addition, we have a robust system for flagging, reviewing and removing all illegal material, and age-verification tools.

“The platform utilizes a variety of automated detection technologies such as CSAI Match, YouTube’s proprietary technology for combating Child Sexual Abuse Imagery content online; PhotoDNA, Microsoft’s technology that aids in finding and removing known images of child exploitation; and Vobile, a state-of-the-art fingerprinting software that scans any new uploads for potential matches to unauthorized materials to protect against any banned video being re-uploaded to the platform.”

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