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'Make Porn Boring': Platform's Request To Governments Amid Crackdown

The Pornhub acquisition has also brought a sea of legal troubles. (Representational)

Governments should stop cracking down on porn websites and instead take pride in sexual expression and help to make porn normal and “boring”, the new owner of Pornhub told AFP.

Canadian private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners bought Pornhub’s parent MindGeek three months ago, bringing under its control a stable of other sites including YouPorn.

The acquisition has also brought a sea of legal troubles.

Its websites were pulled from the US state of Utah in May after they were ordered to verify the ages of users.

In France, website owners and regulators have been locked in talks for months on how to make a 2020 age verification law work in practice.

Two of MindGeek’s sites have not put in place any age verification and face a court ruling on July 7 that could ban them.

“We do not want any underage users on our websites whatsoever,” said ECP founder Solomon Friedman in an interview with AFP.

But he pushed back on the idea that the onus should fall on the websites, instead calling for the operating systems to find a solution.

“We are strongly in support of age verification solutions that do two things: protect children effectively and do not expose personal data,” he said.

“The only solution that accomplishes both of these goals is device or browser-based verification,” he said, adding that it would be “a very simple step for Google and Apple”.

– Heavy pressure –

MindGeek got into hot water in 2020 when the New York Times published allegations that its sites were hosting material depicting rapes and sex involving minors.

The article sparked heavy pressure from regulators in several countries and Visa and MasterCard stopped processing payments.

The owners spent two years trying to sell the firm, which is largely based in Canada but has a complex corporate structure spanning many of the globe’s tax havens, with its official headquarters in Luxembourg.

The new owners — who include two lawyers, an ex-police officer and an Italian investor who made his fortune in the legal sale of cannabis — are keen to distance themselves from the New York Times allegations.

Friedman said the company had completely changed in the past few years.

He boasted that eight million pieces of content had been taken down in 2021 — a claim AFP cannot verify.

“A content removal request automatically results in the content being removed,” he said.

“We review it after it’s removed.”

In addition, uploaders had to provide identification, all content was scanned by algorithms to filter out copyright-protected material, and it is then viewed by company staff before it hits the web.

– The new cannabis –

Solomon said his firm was brought in initially only to check that MindGeek was working within the law.

“And what we found is not only does it comply with the law but it was an extraordinary investing opportunity, but it’s an opportunity that required specialised skills,” he said.

ECP decided that they had those skills and bought the company — though it has been a stiff test since then.

The Utah exit followed an early battle in Louisiana, which has a similar age verification law.

Solomon said their sites were still online in Louisiana as the rules are slightly different — they are not required to collect personal information.

He said he did not want to prejudge any outcomes in France, but could not rule out the possibility his sites would have to pull out.

The issue has risen up the political agenda since President Emmanuel Macron promised to make protecting children from porn a priority during his bid for re-election last year.

Digital minister Jean-Noel Barrot, who has labelled children accessing porn websites a “scandal”, has directly challenged ECP to explain how they will comply with the law.

Solomon said he had reached out to Barrot’s office and promised to produce a report soon, insisting his firm was committed to “talk openly and proudly about the porn industry”.

“I think society has moved in the direction where we are proud of sexual expression,” he said.

“The fact that it’s adult is going to be boring, just like the fact that (legalised) cannabis in Canada has become boring.”

 

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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