The Ugly Truth Behind Pornhub's 'Year In Review'

Pornhub put out a cute press release about which celebrities were searched for most on its site. What it doesn’t say is that many of these search results turn up deepfake porn of those celebrities.
February 18, 2020, 1:32pm
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Image: Cathryn Virginia

Right before the new year, Pornhub sent out its annual Year in Review statistics. Like many of the press releases from one of the world's most popular porn platforms, it tells us just how much and what type of porn people are consuming in the company's signature quirky, lighthearted style.

This year, Pornhub's Year in Review touted "celebrity porn" as one of its most popular search genres. Celebrities with some ties to sex work or famous sex tapes top the list, including Belle Delphine, Kim Kardashian, and Lena the Plug. But the rest of the top search terms are celebrities—mostly women—who've never been involved in porn, including Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, and Gal Gadot.

However, since Pornhub is unable or unwilling to control non-consensual pornography on its platform, searching for these names will immediately lead users to deepfake porn of these women.

Ariana Grande, for example, was searched for more than 9 million times on Pornhub in 2019, while Selena Gomez was searched for 7.3 million times. As is the case for many of the celebrities on Pornhub's list, searching for these names will immediately lead users to deepfake porn videos of them, which violates Pornhub's own policy.

Pornographic deepfakes of these women show up in the first pages of the results and these videos have been viewed thousands of times, according to Pornhub's own numbers. These videos are also profitable for Pornhub, since they're hosted against ads.

In February 2018, after public scrutiny around what companies would do about deepfakes on their platforms, Pornhub joined Reddit, Discord, Twitter, and several others in saying it would ban deepfakes, under its "no non-consensual pornography" terms. The site banned the term "deepfakes" from its search function and a couple channels devoted solely to deepfakes, but there are still tons of deepfakes on Pornhub, despite celebrities being the earliest, most popular targets of deepfake porn.

Statistics from porn sites should be taken with a grain of salt because we can't independently verify them. The only indication that people are searching for celebrity names on Pornhub millions of times is that the site chose to highlight this in a press release. But what Pornhub chooses to highlight here shows that it knows how many people come to its site and what they search for. That there still exists non-consensual pornography at the other end of those searches after the company has stated repeatedly it does not allow them, shows that it is unable to do anything about them. Less generously, it shows that Pornhub doesn't care.

Pornhub did not respond to a request for comment.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.