A pixellated woman on a screen. Illustration by Emily Bernstein. ​
Illustration by Emily Bernstein 

40 Girls Do Porn Victims Are Suing Pornhub for $1 Million Each

The victims of sex trafficking operation Girls Do Porn claim that Mindgeek, Pornhub's parent company, is responsible for upending their lives.
December 15, 2020, 10:49pm

Forty victims of sex trafficking operation Girls Do Porn have filed a lawsuit against Mindgeek, Pornhub's parent company, for a litany of accusations, including knowingly benefiting from Girls Do Porn videos on Pornhub and failing to moderate the images circulating rampantly on its network of tube sites. 

In total, the lawsuit is demanding more than $40 million in damages—at least $1 million per plaintiff—as well as the money Mindgeek earned from hosting and promoting their videos and legal fees. 

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"As a proximate result of MindGeek’s knowing financial benefit and participation in GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture, Plaintiffs have suffered damages, including, but not limited to, severe emotional distress, significant trauma, attempted suicide, and social and familial ostracization," the complaint states.

Filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of California on December 15 by attorneys Brian Holm and John O'Brien, the 43-page complaint details the suffering of these alleged victims of Girls Do Porn, and claims that each of the 40 plaintiffs became suicidal because of the harassment they endured when their videos spread non-consensually across the internet, including across Mindgeek's network of porn sites.   

Girls Do Porn was a sex trafficking operation that forced and coerced dozens of women as young as 18 into sex on camera, and lied to them about where and how the videos would be distributed. The women were told by everyone involved, from cast and crew to the owner, that the videos would not appear online. After filming, their videos were uploaded to Girls Do Porn's own site, as well as Pornhub, where the Girls Do Porn monetized its videos as a Pornhub "content partner." Pornhub also promoted Girls Do Porn as a content partner even after women in Girls Do Porn videos came forward about abuse and sued it.

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The complaint claims that as early as 2009, "and definitely by fall 2016," Mindgeek knew Girls Do Porn was coercing and intimidating models into having sex on camera. It also places much of the blame for the victims' harm on Mindgeek, presenting several claims from models themselves that Pornhub failed to take down videos, even when they reported the videos to Pornhub and pleaded with the company to remove them.

One of the Jane Doe plaintiffs alleges that she contacted Pornhub through its video takedown portal. "Im going to kill myself if this stays up here," she claims to have written in that portal. "I was scammed and told this was only going to be on dvds in another country. Please im begging you please ill pay!" Days later, she wrote to Tube8, another Mindgeek site: "They scammed me and told me it was only going to dvds in another country. Please this is ruining my life." 

A year later, with the video still up on Pornhub, the complaint claims she wrote again to the platform:

I WAS SCAMMED. THIS COMPANY LIED TO ME ABOUT THIS BEING ON THE INTERNET! THEY TOLD ME IT WOULD ONLY BE AVAILIBLE ON DVD IN AUSTRALIA. MY WORK FRIENDS AND FAMILY ALL KNOW AND THIS VERY LINK IS BEING SENT AROUND. I WANT TO JUST DIE

The video remained up, the complaint says, until Girls Do Porn's owners were arrested by the FBI in October 2019. The plaintiffs for this complaint believe that Mindgeek has received "dozens, if not hundreds" of similar takedown requests from victims over the years.

"GirlsDoPorn (and MindGeek) knew the unconsented publication of victim’s sex video would upend the victim’s life," the complaint says. "Once published, Girls Do Porn’s victims were brutally harassed by peers and strangers, effectively turning them into pariahs in their own communities. The victims were ostracized by friends and family, many lost their jobs, and some were expelled from college. The relentless harassment caused all victims to become suicidal and some even attempted such." 

How Pornhub Enables Doxing and Harassment

According to the complaint, "Mindgeek knowingly benefitted from and participated in GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture by, among other things: partnering with GirlsDoPorn through its Content Partner Program and Viewshare Program; marketing, selling, and exploiting videos featuring victims of GirlsDoPorn’s sex trafficking venture; [and] earning millions of dollars in affiliate fees and premium subscriptions." 

In October 2019, the FBI indicted Girls Do Porn for federal counts of sex trafficking. The owner, Michael Pratt, is on the FBI's Most Wanted list. Last month, the male performer for the videos, Andre Garcia, pled guilty to trafficking counts. Earlier this year, following a civil trial, a California state judge ordered the company's operators to pay 22 women $12.7 million for force, fraud and coercion.

The complaint not only outlines the trauma these women faced—it also adds several new allegations to the story of Girls Do Porn and its business relationship with Mindgeek and specifically, Pornhub. According to the complaint, around 2018, while the state court action against Girls Do Porn was was pending, Mindgeek tried to buy Girls Do Porn, but backed out when it learned about the fraud Girls Do Porn was committing.

"MindGeek entered into a Letter of Intent with GirlsDoPorn seeking to purchase GirlsDoPorn’s video library and that, during the due diligence for this prospective acquisition, MindGeek further learned of the fraud and coercion GirlsDoPorn use to recruit and groom its victims causing MindGeek to back out of the purchase," the complaint states.

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But learning about the fraud Girls Do Porn was committing wasn't enough to stop Mindgeek from continuing to partner with, and promote, the company after that, the lawsuit alleges. In August 2019, Motherboard asked Pornhub why it was still featuring Girls Do Porn as a content partner, when the company was accused by many women of allegations as serious as rape and fraud. It wasn't until two months later, after the FBI indictment of sex trafficking, that Pornhub removed Girls Do Porn's official channel. On Monday, Pornhub purged of all its unverified content from the platform—nearly 75 percent of its videos—as part of a new policy shift to try to make the site safer and stop the spread of abusive content. Performers have been asking Pornhub to make this change for years. Girls Do Toys, a joint venture with Girls Do Porn that features many of the same women, is still on Pornhub, even after the content purge. [Update 12/16: Pornhub removed the official Girls Do Toys channel following publication of this piece.]

The complaint also claims that Girls Do Porn purchased a website used to dox and harass adult performers, PornWikiLeaks.com, in November 2015, after seeing the high level of traffic the site was getting from harassment toward Girls Do Porn models going back to at least 2012. Girls Do Porn wanted to use PornWikiLeaks "as a marketing tool," according to the complaint. "In January 2016, advertisements linking to GirlsDoPorn’s subscription paysites began appearing in the PornWikiLeaks.com forums where the victims were being doxed." In 2019, adult film production company Bang Bros bought PornWikiLeaks, shut it down, and posted a video of a burning hard drive that it claimed was all the forum's data.

Last week, following allegations of child sexual abuse imagery on the platform, Pornhub changed its policies to only allow verified uploads and downloads, and promised to bolster existing moderation practices. But the shift seemed to come too late: Mastercard and Visa stopped processing payments for Pornhub days after this change. Individual performers, who use the site legally for their income, say that this was a preventable outcome that will now put their livelihoods more at risk.

Pornhub did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment. 

The full complaint can be viewed here or below.

This story has been updated to note Girls Do Toys’ removal.