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Mom sues Pornhub owner for allegedly showing video of her son, 12, being molested

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
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WARNING: Some of the details in this story may be disturbing to some readers. 

A mother from Alabama has accused Pornhub's parent company of profiting from a video showing the molestation of her 12-year-old son and ignoring repeated requests from police to remove it before the footage was taken down.

A lawsuit filed by the boy's mother in the U.S. District Court in Alabama last month alleged the man who uploaded the disturbing video to Pornhub entered into an agreement with the site's Montreal-based owner, MindGeek, to share "sexually violent pornographic material of minor children" for a fee.

Rocky Shay Franklin, a 36-year-old resident of Greenville, AL, was sentenced to 40 years in prison on May 17 after pleading guilty to two counts of the sexual exploitation of a child, one count of advertising child pornography, and two counts of distribution of child pornography.

The suit alleged that Alabama law enforcement received 67 cybertips from the American National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) associated with Franklin's email address, leading to a search and seizure on Oct. 17, 2019.

"Examination of Franklin’s devices revealed disturbing images of Franklin sexually assaulting CV1 (a 12-year-old-boy) and another minor child related to CV1, as well as other unidentified minor children," according to the lawsuit.

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been tested in court.

The U.S. Department of Justice said during a plea deal he admitted to enticing two minors in the summer of 2018 to engage in sexually explicit acts in order to produce videos for an online porn website.

"Franklin advertised these files through the website and requested a monetary fee for distribution," the department announced in a news release last May.

The lawsuit said the molestation happened when Franklin was living with the boy's mother and her minor children from July to October 2018.

DEFENDANT SIGNED UP AS 'ACTOR' ON PORN SITE, LAWSUIT ALLEGES

The U.S. man had looked into MindGeek's platform that pays people for content prior to uploading the video of the abuse of the 12-year-old boy on May 11, 2019, according to the lawsuit.

"Franklin’s web history revealed that Franklin had researched and discovered that Pornhub pays 'actors' for content views. According to the website, 'Viewshare' is a program allowing Premium members to receive a commission based on the number of views an 'Actor’s' uploaded content received," the document claimed.

"Analysis of Franklin’s web history revealed 121 entries with open links to Pornhub.com, where he provided, and the MindGeek Defendants procured for sale, downloadable videos depicting Franklin’s sexually explicit victimization of CV1."

The videos of the abuse, which were sold for between $5 and $20, amassed more than 188,000 views on Pornhub, the lawsuit alleged.

MindGeek has its headquarters in Montreal along with several satellite offices around the world.

Franklin and MindGeek are named as defendants in the civil suit, along with several others, including MG Freesites Ltd., MindGeek USA Inc., MG CY Holdings, MindGeek Content RT Limited, and a numbered company based in Montreal doing business as "MindGeek." The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages.

CTV News has reached out to MindGeek to respond to the allegations, but the company has not yet responded.

POLICE ASKED THREE TIMES FOR VIDEO'S REMOVAL

The online videos lived on Pornhub, the world's largest pornography site, for seven months before they were taken down, but not before law enforcement repeatedly asked Pornhub's owner to remove them, according to the allegations in the lawsuit.

The document claimed that police first requested the video to be removed on or about Nov. 18, 2019. Police followed up again on Nov. 26 after noticing the footage was still there. The third request on Dec. 12, 2019, requested MindGeek remove the video, which eventually happened the following day.

"At no time did the MindGeek Defendants attempt to verify CV1’s identity or age, inquire about their status as minor children, victims of sex trafficking, or otherwise use their platform to root out the trafficking of their images. Instead, the MindGeek Defendants continued to disseminate these images around the world for profit even after law enforcement informed the MindGeek Defendants the images contained child pornography," the lawsuit alleged.

MindGeek is accused of turning a blind eye to the presence of sexual exploitation content on their websites, which resulted in the young boy suffering "traumatic and life-altering physical, mental and emotional injuries."

"The Defendants’ conduct was reckless and/or intentional, and extreme and outrageous, in that the public dissemination of sexually violent material of CV1, a minor child, for profit is so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society," the lawsuit alleged.

In the last couple of years, Pornhub's parent company has faced multiple lawsuits, mostly filed in the U.S., by people accusing the porn giant of hosting sexually explicit videos of people, sometimes minors, without their consent and monetizing the content.

MindGeek has denied the allegations and said in the past it has a "zero tolerance" policy for child sexual abuse material and sexually explicit content shared without consent.

In a major blow to the site's operations, Visa and Mastercard suspended ties with the advertising arm of MindGeek last August after a lawsuit raised questions over whether the payment firms could be facilitating child pornography.

A California judge rejected a lawsuit from a woman who alleged the company facilitated the distribution of child pornography on Pornhub and other MindGeek websites.

Last year, an Alberta woman told CTV News about her nightmarish ordeal to remove all traces of her videotaped sexual assault from the largest porn website in the world.

"I'm not even conscious. I don’t move," she told W5. "You can tell that there was no consent in the video."

The two heads of the Montreal porn empire, CEO Feras Antoon and chief operating officer David Tassillo, stepped down from MindGeek last June. In a statement, the company said the departures were planned months before and had nothing to do with the recent media attention on the Pornhub lawsuits.

With files from CTV Montreal's Daniel J. Rowe

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