MONTREAL -- Montreal-based online porn giant Pornhub, after unprecedented pressure the last two weeks, has removed the majority of the videos on its site, signaling a shift in its business model.

Only 2.9 million videos were in its online bank on Monday afternoon—a far cry from roughly 13 million that were available on Sunday, according to one advocate.

All the videos that were taken down were from “unverified” users, Pornhub said, meaning regular people who had posted videos without needing to prove their own identities or the people depicted.

While the move doesn’t answer all the longer-term questions about Pornhub’s future, it will probably bring “some comfort” to those who have had non-consensual videos posted, said David Fraser, a Halifax lawyer who specializes in privacy law.

“My experience is, the number-one thing that victims want is for it to be taken down,” said Fraser.

Fraser said there's been some suggestion that Pornhub removed the 10 million videos in an attempt to take more time going through them and find any problematic ones, but the company didn’t make that entirely clear.

Last week, the company said it planned to hire more people to screen and verify videos. But in an update late Sunday, the company simply said it had “suspended” all videos by unverified users, making the change sound permanent.

The only remaining videos are by people who belong to two Pornhub programs and had therefore had their identities checked, at least to an extent.

“As part of our policy to ban unverified uploaders, we have now… suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program,” the company wrote on its blog. 

“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.”

It didn't suggest it would be restoring any of the previous videos but did say it would launch a new system to allow amateurs to have their identities checked.

“In the new year, we will implement a verification process so that any user can upload content upon successful completion of identification protocol," it wrote.

The company hasn’t responded to a request for comment to explain the move further.


It’s the latest in a series of dominoes that have fallen after a New York Times investigation was published a week and a half ago alleging that Pornhub had published videos of minors being sexually abused, of people being raped, and of moments published without consent of the people depicted.

Pornhub’s business model has always depended on allowing “amateur” videos uploaded by its viewers, so Sunday’s change marks a major shift.

According to Pornhub’s “year in review” update for 2019, more than 6.83 million new videos were uploaded to the site in the year—and it noted that “amateur” as a search term also grew more quickly than any other word last year.

Pornhub faces more questions in the near future. On Friday, two of the company’s executives were called to testify before a parliamentary committee in Ottawa sometime this winter.

Those who have been following the company’s trajectory said they weren't very concerned that the erasure of potentially problematic videos from public view could have an effect on holding the company to account—for example, if police launch further investigations.

“In the grand scheme of things… I’m not thinking that it would be likely that there would be a huge number of lawsuits and investigations that would really rely on them keeping the evidence on their servers,” said Fraser.

One senator who’s been helping lead the charge for Ottawa to look closely at Pornhub said the same.

Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne, an independent Senator for Quebec, said she’s “convinced” that citizens or investigating police have captured their own evidence of any problematic videos.

She said she has one idea of what federal legislators should look at as they begin to review the matter, however.

“Some of the problem is with our laws, which do not make it easy to go after porn sites,” said Miville-Dechêne, “because knowledge of illegal material by bosses of porn sites [has] to be proven.”


In its update, Pornhub said that while it’s making changes, it’s also being unfairly singled out—a claim that holds some weight, said one legal expert.

The two groups that have “spearheaded the campaign” against Pornhub, it wrote, want to abolish pornography and have previously spent decades “demonizing Playboy,” sex education and “even the American Library Association,” among other causes.

“Today it happens to be Pornhub.”

New York-based victims’ rights lawyer Carrie Goldberg said Sunday’s move is positive, but she wrote in a series of tweets that the company is far from the worst offender.

“Yes, let's pressure Pornhub to clean up,” she wrote. “But don’t blind yourself to the issue that the social media companies you use everyday are FAR worse even though they don't have ‘porn’ in their title.” 

She specifically cited Facebook and Instagram, as well as programs like Skype, Zoom and Dropbox. 

“The majority of the most ghastly content is not published publicly on porn sites,” she wrote. “It’s hoarded and secretly exchanged with as little trace as possible.”

The leader of one of the advocacy groups that Pornhub mentioned by name in its update said that she rejected the idea the criticisms are based in anti-porn moralizing.

“That’s called a deflection from responsibility,” said Laila Mickelwait of the group Trafficking Hub. “This is not an indictment against pornography, this is an indictment against crime against children.”

She said the purging of unverified videos is also long overdue. 

“The only reason why they're making these moves is that they're being strangled financially and because the entire global spotlight on them,” she said. They are “changes that should have been made before they ever began doing business.”