Thank PayPal for refusing to support exploitation

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To the Directors of PayPal UK:

We want to express strong support of PayPal’s decision to withdraw payment services to Pornhub, one of the largest online pornographic websites in the world. We recognise that the decision has attracted considerable criticism, but are convinced that it was an important step to take in challenging Pornhub, and by extension, Mindgeek’s unregulated monopoly on an inherently exploitative industry. 

As individuals and organisations, we are concerned about how the porn industry drives sexual exploitation at a global level, and believe it is essential to challenge Mindgeek/Pornhub’s apparent indifference to illegal content uploaded by its users. 

Child Abuse Images
Although illegal, material depicting child sexual abuse is – horrifically - easy to find on Pornhub. The site claims to remove content featuring children within 24 hours but a recent investigation conducted by The Sunday Times earlier this month found that some videos “had 350,000 views and had been on the platform for more than three years”. In the same report, the Internet Watch Foundation was quoted as having found 47 instances of child sexual abuse material on Pornhub in 2019, nearly half of which were Category A, the highest level of abuse. 

‘Revenge porn’
The high demand for ‘amateur porn’ on porn sites means women increasingly find themselves victims of image based sexual abuse (‘revenge porn’). They are violated by the spread of their image online, without their consent or control, and exploited as sites such as Pornhub make money from ad sales alongside it. Victims of this abuse say it has led to severe mental health issues and even suicidal thoughts.  There are little to no industry regulations against this stolen content, and the response-procedures in place do very little to actually help the victims of this abuse.

Sex Trafficking
Many people assume that online porn is completely separate from ‘real life’ prostitution and sex trafficking, but, in reality, the crossover is huge. Major porn websites such as YouPorn, RedTube and of course Pornhub feature real films of abuse, rape and sexual assault. This has even become a niche ‘genre’ with titles such as “Immigrant girl from Costa Rica wants to be a citizen” and “Poor Chinese migrant worker needs cash”. These videos feature porn made by girls and women who have been trafficked into performing for the camera.

The scale of the exploitation and abuse of adults and children through the porn industry is vast. We support those who want to exit the porn industry, but for complex reasons (including financial dependence) cannot. This must be dealt with at a governmental level. It is simply not fair to shift the burden onto performers who are often economically dependent and, in many cases, trapped into systems of exploitation.

We call upon UK businesses and brands who are affiliated with porn websites to:

  • Acknowledge that profiting from porn sites (either through service provision or advertising) feeds a vast and unregulated industry in which sexual abuse and exploitation of children and adults is rife;
  • Drop deals with porn sites and cut all future ties.

We call upon our next Government to:

  • introduce effective regulation of the adult entertainment industry and hold it to account; 
  • address the root causes of oppression that drive many people, particularly women, into it.

Businesses supporting porn sites through ostensibly legitimate routes are supporting and profiting from exploitation. It must stop.