Pornhub Says ‘Anti-Porn Crusaders’ Are Misleading People About Its Instagram Suspension

A spokesperson for Pornhub said the removal is due to “Instagram’s overly cautious censoring of the adult industry.”
The Pornhub logo. Getty Images
Getty Images

Instagram disabled the official Pornhub account on Saturday, in what Pornhub calls yet another example of the Meta-owned platform discriminating against the adult industry.

Following the Pornhub Instagram account going down, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an anti-trafficking organization that’s supported legislation and stigma that harms sex workers and increases exploitation, sent journalists a press release taking full credit for the Pornhub Instagram account going dark. Motherboard also received the press release from NCOSE on Sunday, which had the headline “Instagram Removes Pornhub Account After Repeated Calls from NCOSE, International Advocates, and Survivors.” 

Advertisement

A Pornhub spokesperson told Motherboard that the company’s Instagram account was only temporarily disabled—which happens frequently to accounts run by sex workers even when they aren’t breaking any of the platform’s terms of service—and that it will be back soon. 

“Anti-porn crusaders like NCOSE (formerly named Morality in Media) intentionally misled reporters about why Pornhub’s Instagram profile was disabled, and actively misled people into believing they were responsible,” the Pornhub spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement. “Instagram does not take business dictation from anti-porn zealots, especially ones with noted histories of propagating false information and extremist policies against sex workers. In actuality, our account was temporarily disabled, as has happened many times in the past due to Instagram’s overly cautious censoring of the adult industry, a fact that thousands of adult performers deal with everyday despite not violating any of Instagram’s terms of service. We look forward to our account being reactivated, as it always has.”

“NCOSE, along with a group of international advocates and survivors, have been sharing evidence of criminality on Pornhub with Instagram and requested that the social media company remove Pornhub,” a spokesperson for NCOSE wrote ahead of the emailed press release celebrating Pornhub’s suspension on Instagram. Multiple news outlets reported the account’s removal over the weekend by quoting NCOSE’s claims—that Instagram removed Pornhub’s Instagram account due to allegations of criminality on Pornhub’s platform.

Advertisement

Laila Mickelwait, the former director of abolition for anti-trafficking organization Exodus Cry and leader of the “Traffickinghub” campaign that’s attempting to get Pornhub shut down entirely, tweeted a screenshot on Saturday showing her reporting attempt against the account, and a notification that Instagram removed the account because it “goes against community guidelines.” 

Laila Mickelwait on Twitter

Instagram did not respond to a request for comment. According to Variety, the account had 13.1 million followers and more than 6,200 posts before Instagram removed it.

Instagram, as a Mark Zuckerberg-owned platform, has long been hostile toward sex workers, sexual speech, and anything vaguely resembling sexual expression. It frequently bans sex educators and sex workers alike—some of which have pointed to the unfairness of unevenly-applied rules, and that Instagram allows big accounts like Pornhub and Brazzers—or even celebrities and influencers who post near- or implied nudity—to stay on the platform while independent performers and sex workers are deplatformed.  

Instagram’s rules are continuously tightening against sexual speech. In 2019, Instagram revised its Sexual Solicitation Community Standards to forbid “sexually suggestive elements” including “contextually specific and commonly sexual emojis or emoji strings.” In 2021, Instagram updated its rules to ban offering or asking for pornographic materials, “including, but not limited to, sharing of links to external pornographic websites.” 

Pornhub has been the target of several lawsuits and increased scrutiny in recent years. It’s currently embroiled in a lawsuit brought by a woman who alleges that Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, is partially responsible for damages endured when her then-boyfriend uploaded sexual images of her to the platform when she was 13 years old. Last year, the company reached a settlement with 50 victims of sex-trafficking ring Girls Do Porn, which used Pornhub to disseminate videos they appeared in. And last month—after major credit card companies stopped service to the site following conservative crusades against it, including by NCOSE—Visa and Mastercard stopped allowing payments processed for the site’s advertising network.

Sign up for Motherboard’s daily newsletter for a regular dose of our original reporting, plus behind-the-scenes content about our biggest stories.