Pornhub parent company admits profiting from sex trafficking

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The company that operates Pornhub and other adult websites acknowledged Thursday in federal court in Brooklyn that it had profited for years from pornographic content depicting victims of sex trafficking, according to federal prosecutors.

Aylo Holdings SARL, the parent company of Pornhub, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of engaging in illegal monetary transactions related to the proceeds of sex trafficking. But through a deal with prosecutors, the company agreed to pay damages to women who said they were forced to appear in pornographic videos that were then posted on the company's websites without their consent.

The settlement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, requires the company to pay a fine of more than $1.8 million and be assigned a monitor who will evaluate Aylo's protocols for vetting content and addressing reports of illegal content on their platforms. In exchange, he would allow the charges against Aylo to be dropped after three years.

Aylo, which was previously called MindGeek, operates several websites that allow third parties to publish and distribute adult content, according to prosecutors. In 2009, Aylo began hosting pornographic videos created by production companies GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys.

Between 2016 and 2019, prosecutors said, Aylo received numerous messages from women saying they had been tricked into filming videos for GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys and that the videos had been posted on Pornhub.com without their consent.

Aylo was also aware of a lawsuit filed in 2017 by victims of the companies, prosecutors said, and knew that a GirlsDoPorn cameraman had testified that he lied to women to persuade them to appear in the videos. However, the company continued to host the videos and benefit from its association with the production companies, according to prosecutors.

In 2019, several of the operators of GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys were charged in California with sex trafficking and other crimes related to “deceiving and coercing” young women into appearing in pornographic videos that were then posted online without their consent.

Aylo did not completely remove the videos from her platforms until late 2020, prosecutors said.

In a statement, Aylo said she “deeply regrets” hosting content produced by GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys.

“While the production company provided the platforms with written documentation purporting to be consent forms signed by women featured,” the statement says, the company now understands that those forms were obtained “through fraud and coercion.”

Solomon Friedman, a partner at Ethical Capital Partners, the Canadian private equity firm that acquired Aylo earlier this year, emphasized that Aylo had not admitted to any illegal activity and that his company was “committed to obtaining fair results” for anyone who was harmed. for the actions of GirlsDoPorn.

“Although we did not know that our partner at the time, GirlsDoPorn, was involved in illegal activities, we later learned that this was the case and we deeply regret it,” he said Thursday.

James Smith, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, said in a statement that Aylo was “motivated by profits” when he “enriched himself by turning a blind eye to the concerns of victims who reported to the company that “They were deceived and forced to participate in illicit sexual activities.”

Hundreds of people have been identified as victims of GirlsDoPorn's sex trafficking operation, prosecutors said.

The deal with prosecutors “holds Pornhub.com's parent company accountable for its role in hosting videos and accepting payments from criminal actors,” Breon Peace, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “This resolution will not only provide oversight over one of the world's largest online content distributors and ensure the company's legal behavior, but will also develop industry-wide security and compliance standards.”



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