Police Investigating Arson After Pornhub CEO's Mansion Goes Up In Flames

MindGeek, Pornhub’s parent company, has been under scrutiny from parliament’s ethics committee.
April 26, 2021, 4:37pm
Feras Antoon's property.
Screenshot via real estate listing / RoyalLepage.ca

A mansion owned by Feras Antoon, a Pornhub executive, was torched in an apparent arson last night.

Police told VICE they were initially called to a property in Montreal’s upper class Ahuntsic-Cartierville neighbourhood at 11:30 P.M when two people were spotted trespassing on the property. Julien Lévesque, a media relations officer for Montreal Police, said when authorities arrived on the scene shortly thereafter they found the multi-million dollar property ablaze.

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The fire was so massive that more than 80 firefighters were called in and the neighbours were forced to evacuate nearby properties. Authorities got the fire under control by 2:30 A.M. and say no one was hurt, although several neighbours had to be evacuated.

"Police officers who arrived on site were able to see that the fire began inside the residence," said Lévesque. "Earlier this morning… our arson squad from Montreal police took charge of the investigation. They were onsite this morning to analyze all the scene, meet some witnesses to try to understand what was the cause and the circumstances of the beginning of this fire." 

“Over the weekend, a fire occurred at my residence,” Antoon told VICE in a statement. “The residence was under construction. I am grateful that my family and I and our neighbours are safe. Out of respect for the ongoing police investigation, I will not be commenting further.”

The property, which has yet to finish construction, was only recently put up for sale by Antoon, the CEO of Mindgeek Canadian operations—the company that owns Pornhub. According to local media, it is unknown why the businessman is selling the massive property.  The property is substantial, a write up from a real estate company has it listed for $19,800,000. It sits on 1.4 acres, has eight bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, and was planned to have multiple elevators.

“From the moment you enter this luxurious residence, you will be seduced by the sheer vastness of the space,” the listing reads. “At the end of this side of the home is what is a truly unique feature, a 60' x 100' 'Multi Sport Complex' for basketball, volleyball and badminton and designed to double as a magnificent ballroom.”

Lévesque told VICE that the extent of the damage was “major.” 

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MindGeek has been under scrutiny from Canadian parliament since December, when the access to information, privacy, and ethics committee moved to bring the company in for testimony about its "failure to prohibit rape videos and other illegal content from its site." 

This investigation by parliament followed pressure in late 2020 from anti-trafficking, anti-pornography groups such as the National Center for Sexual Exploitation and Exodus Cry that claimed abusive imagery runs rampant on MindGeeks sites, especially Pornhub. The platform suspended all unverified uploads and downloads, and overhauled its security guidelines, but Mastercard, Visa and Discover cut ties with Pornhub—a decision many sex workers who relied on the site for income stability say directly harmed their livelihoods. 

Antoon, along with other MindGeek executives, took questions from Members of Parliament in February about what actions they've taken to prevent abuse on the site. "Is it fair to say, if these changes were put into place years ago, that this instance wouldn't have happened and Girls Do Porn wouldn't have happened ... do you think that's fair?" MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith asked.

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"I respectfully disagree," Antoon said. "Our system is not perfect like any other video sharing platform, adult or not adult... We can always improve and always do better." 

Earlier this month, Motherboard investigated the ties between white supremacists, anti-pornography extremists, and rhetoric from anti-sex trafficking organizations like Exodus Cry. Recent posts from groups on right-wing social media site Gab showed threats against Pornhub executives specifically, vowing to bring them "to justice," and citing talking points from Traffickinghub, Exodus Cry's campaign to get Pornhub shut down. 

The ethics committee has brought Traffickinghub leader Laila Mickelwait in for testimony as an expert witness, as well as the National Center on Sexual Exploitation—both of which applauded Mastercard and Visa dropping Pornhub—and multiple religiously affiliated women's rights groups. In March and April, the committee heard testimony from sex worker adovates, including the Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition, the Free Speech Coalition, and the Adult Industry Laborers and Artists Association.

According to a Pornhub spokesperson speaking about the Gab group investigation, the company's security team monitors threats against staff continuously, and they pose a real threat against their safety. "Rampant anti-porn rhetoric has drastically increased instances of death threats and doxing against our employees," the Pornhub spokesperson told Motherboard. "Unfortunately, it has also been detrimental to the hundreds of thousands of models who seek to use our platform to earn a living." Pornhub did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the alleged arson. 

"Despite hundreds of emails from workers, and organizations requesting equal time the committee has refused to hear sex workers whose lives, and livelihoods are at risk from this hearing," the Adult Industry Laborers and Artists Association written testimony said. "So many people have been irreparably harmed from violence, banking discrimination, unequal treatment, disproportionate harassment and arrest in our industry. While the religious anti-porn crusade seems unstoppable, we hope that you can stop further violence against adult industry workers and stop platforming the propaganda of American alt-right religious organizations."  

Updated 4/26, 1:40 p.m. EST with comment from Antoon.