Skip to main content

MindGeek's new owner vows 'public and transparent ownership' after Pornhub controversy

Defence lawyers Solomon Friedman speaks to reporters outside the Ottawa Court in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick Defence lawyers Solomon Friedman speaks to reporters outside the Ottawa Court in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Share

An Ottawa lawyer used to defending people from serious criminal allegations is now hoping to write a new chapter in the story about the world's largest — and highly controversial — porn site.

Solomon Friedman is one of the partners of Ethical Capital Partners (ECP), a private equity firm founded last year in the nation's capital that announced on Thursday it acquired Montreal-based MindGeek, the owner of Pornhub. The terms of the deal are not being made public.

Pornhub has been mired in controversy amid multiple lawsuits alleging the site's owner allowed child sexual abuse material and other illegal content to be uploaded and profited from it. MindGeek's website boasts 115 million daily visitors to its various porn properties, which include websites such as YouPorn, Redtube, and Brazzers.

So why did this Ottawa firm want to take it over?

Friedman said he took a deep dive into the company's operations and safety protocols to counter illegal content and said he "just couldn't pass up the opportunity."

"I can tell you this as a criminal lawyer myself, illegal content is not an adult entertainment problem. In fact, it is exponentially more likely to be found on what we consider mainstream platforms like your Facebook, Twitter and Reddit," he said in an interview with CTV News.

MindGeek has previously announced tools to combat illegal content, including image recognition technology, a new content removal request form, and new moderation policies to flag and remove content.

"Once we got to look at the inner workings of the company, we quickly became extremely comfortable with the processes and the world-leading technology that they have in place and we can't wait to take it to the next level," Solomon said.

Transforming the company's reputation will certainly be a challenge for the new owner. Protecting minors from sexual exploitation and preventing non-consensual sexual content from being shared on places like Pornhub, he acknowledged, is an "enormous challenge," but he said it begins with "public and transparent ownership."

MindGeek's former executives have historically been elusive and have largely avoided speaking to the media. Its CEO and COO, Feras Antoon and David Tassillo, stepped down last June.

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS

ECP lists cannabis entrepreneur Rocco Meliambro and criminal lawyer Fady Mansour as its founding partners on its website.

Other members of the firm include Derek Ogden, a retired chief superintendent with the RCMP. Solomon is listed as vice-president of compliance.

MindGeek is legally headquartered in Luxembourg but has its main office in a nondescript glass building on Decarie Boulevard in Montreal. It settled a class-action lawsuit in California in 2021 alleging it profited off material showing child sexual abuse and non-consensual activity. Several Canadians were among the plaintiffs.

Last fall, an Alabama mother sued MindGeek for hosting and profiting from a video on Pornhub of her 12-year-old son being molested by a 36-year-old man. The man was sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexual offences after pleading guilty to the abuse.

Solomon declined to comment on the outstanding lawsuits against MindGeek.

"It takes time. It takes diligence, but there will be just outcomes and we are looking forward to the fair, judicial process taking its course and we will be making announcements as required," he said.

'VAST REFORMS' NEEDED, QUEBEC SENATOR SAYS

After the New York Times published a story about allegations of sexual exploitation on Pornhub, MindGeek announced it was halting video uploads from unverified users.

MindGeek has previously said in statements to CTV News that it has "zero tolerance for non-consensual content, child sexual abuse material (CSAM), and any other content that lack the consent of all parties depicted."

It also said it has a "comprehensive" team of human moderators that reviews each video upload.

A Quebec senator who has been an outspoken critic of MindGeek said she was not surprised by the acquisition on Thursday.

Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne is the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking. She told Noovo Info that she hopes the new owner takes steps to ban illegal content.

"I think they absolutely have to avoid videos showing sexual exploitation on its platform, they have to avoid non-consensual images, and for that, it is necessary to make vast reforms," she said Friday. "Above all, we must prevent children from having access with impunity to this kind of material, which sometimes can cause them harm."

The ECP acquisition comes seven months after Visa and Mastercard cut ties with the advertising arm of Pornhub's owner over concerns about the content on its site.

With files from The Canadian Press

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Some birds may use 'mental time travel,' study finds

Real quick — what did you have for lunch yesterday? Were you with anyone? Where were you? Can you picture the scene? The ability to remember things that happened to you in the past, especially to go back and recall little incidental details, is a hallmark of what psychologists call episodic memory — and new research indicates that it’s an ability humans may share with birds called Eurasian jays.

Stay Connected