Junk Explained: Here’s Why 10 Million Videos Have Been Removed From Pornhub

The world's most famous porn site just deleted 10 million of its videos, and is completely changing the way it hosts content.

Everything explained about PornHub's decision to delete 10 million videos

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One of the world’s biggest porn sites, Pornhub, just got a whole lot smaller. The site has temporarily suspended all user-uploaded content, after an explosive story from the New York Times detailed the site’s failure to moderate child pornography and non-consensual videos.

— Warning: This article discusses child pornography, sex trafficking, sexual assault, self-harm, and suicide —

Since 2007, Pornhub has allowed any user to upload videos. Now, only content partners — AKA studios — and model partners can host videos. The site receives more visits per month than Netflix, Amazon, or Yahoo and, per one ranking, is the 10th most-viewed site in the world.

While two other porn sites sit above it, Pornhub is arguably the most well-known for its public branding as sex-worker positive, and supportive of LGBTIQ+ and racial justice issues. Few other porn sites buy billboards in Times Square or have their year-in-review trend lists published across news websites.

As per Motherboard, before the purge on Sunday, Pornhub advertised it offered 13.5 million videos. As of publication, the site boasts that you can search 2.9 million videos.

Pornhub, owned by Canadian company MindGeek (who also host porn sites RedTube, XTube, YouPorn,, Brazzers, and many more) argue that they are being unfairly targeted in comparison to other social media sites, but are putting the extreme measure in place to ensure any illegal and un-consensual content is not hosted on the site.

“This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders — a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter have yet to institute,” a statement from the site reads.

“Over the last three years, Facebook self-reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material. During that same period, the independent, third-party Internet Watch Foundation reported 118 incidents on Pornhub. That is still 118 too many, which is why we are committed to taking every necessary action.”

MindGeek is framing the scrutiny as anti-porn and anti-sex work, stating that there is inherent hypocrisy of targeting Pornhub and not other hosts of child pornography and other non-consensual videos.

“It is clear that Pornhub is being targeted not because of our policies and how we compare to our peers, but because we are an adult content platform,” the statement reads, pointing towards the anti-porn history of the two lobbyist groups who they say ‘spearheaded’ the campaign.

“These are the same forces that have spent 50 years demonizing Playboy, the National Endowment for the Arts, sex education, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and even the American Library Association. Today, it happens to be Pornhub.”

The NYT exposé tells a different story: one where moderation, until now, has been underemployed, allowing the ambiguity of context to lend videos that shouldn’t see the light of day the benefit of the doubt.

What The NYT Alleges

In a long-form report published on December 4, New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristoff interviews several women and men who say that they are struggling to remove child pornography and otherwise non-consensual videos of themselves from Pornhub. It is an upsetting, difficult read.

While Pornhub may remove a video once, it often pops up again. Several of the women Kristoff speak to detail self-harm, addiction issues, and suicide attempts in response, with one woman saying that “Pornhub became my trafficker”.

One major issue with Pornhub, Kristoff says, is the ability for users to download videos. In effect, it makes it impossible to prevent a user simply re-uploading a banned video on Pornhub via another account, or sharing the content elsewhere — and the tech Pornhub uses to prevent re-uploads is being easily circumvented.

Pornhub has made terms such as “underage” or “rape” un-searchable on its site, but Kristoff notes that doesn’t make it particularly hard to find that content. Other search terms will pop up rape or ‘underage’ videos, and while role-playing makes it hard to discern what is real, Kristoff says Pornhub is ‘promoting’ videos with language to attract pedophiles.

Content moderators review each video, but Kristoff spoke to a former MindGeek employee who said the goal is to “let as much content as possible go through”. Pornhub does not reveal how many moderators it has, but one told Kristoff there are around 80 working across MindGeek’s titles.

“With 1.36 million new hours of video uploaded a year to Pornhub, that means that each moderator would have to review hundreds of hours of content each week,” Kristoff writes.

The moderator describes the job as “soul-destroying”, as they have to assess whether the person in the video is of age, or whether acts of torture, rape, or non-consensual videos (ie. spy-cams) are real or role-play.

In the article, Kristoff notes child pornography and nonconsensual porn videos aren’t unique to Pornhub, or even porn sites. But the direct links between Pornhub and the way the company profits off these videos — and, as Kristoff argues, attracts pedophiles as customers — is worrying.

As part of a solution, Kristoff recommends three shifts: prohibit downloads, increase moderation, and only allow verified users to upload videos.

In response to the story and resulting fallout, Pornhub first announced they would ban un-verified users from uploading or downloading videos and committed to increasing moderation. Then came the news they would suspend all current un-verified content — news which, if you read the comments on Pornhub’s announcement, has pissed off many users and also creators, who feel they have been swept up in a relatively small issue.

What’s Next?

As a company, Pornhub is in trouble.

Both Visa and Mastercard have temporarily blocked the site as an allowed vendor while they both conduct their own reviews into Pornhub’s content, meaning a vast majority of people cannot easily pay for PornHub Premium. Visa included all MindGeek sites in the ban.

In addition, more than two million people have signed a petition to shut down Pornhub for hosting child sex-trafficking videos, as part of a campaign launched in February by, unknown to many of its signees, a conservative religious group with anti-LGBTIQ and anti-sex work views.

However, many sex workers also support an overhaul of Pornhub to prevent the proliferation of sex-trafficking and nonconsensual videos. Motherboard has an overview of the various campaigns, and tensions within them.

Pornhub may have removed upload and download powers from unverified accounts, but there have been issues with verified accounts too.

In 2019, the two men behind Girls Do Porn, a verified account on Pornhub, were charged of 22 accounts of sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion by 22 women. And as Kristoff cites, there’s a horrific case where a woman found her missing, trafficked 15-year-old daughter in 58 explicit videos from a verified account.

Clearly, Pornhub needs to overhaul the way its verified content works, too. Currently, all that verification requires is a photo of yourself with your username and the url ‘’ handwritten onto a piece of paper. Alternatively, it is worth considering whether or not a model that requires moderators to scour through the darkest videos imaginable to prevent them from being seen is fundamentally broken.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit In an emergency, call 000.

If you need support, both Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 offer 24-hour assistance. For further information about youth mental health, both Headspace and Reach Out can provide guidance. You can also talk to a medical professional or someone you trust.

Men can access anonymous confidential telephone counselling to help to stop using violent and controlling behaviour through the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491.

Jared Richards is a staff writer at Junkee and freelancer who has written for The Guardian, The Big Issue and more. He’s @jrdjms on Twitter.