GOP senator calls for DOJ investigation into Pornhub over videos of sex trafficking victims

Greg Nash

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) is calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch an investigation into Pornhub, one of the most popular pornography websites in the world, over allegations that it is hosting videos of sex trafficking victims, including young women and children.

In a letter to the DOJ on Tuesday, Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked the DOJ to investigate Pornhub and its parent company, MindGeek Holding SARL, over “their involvement in this disturbing pipeline of exploiting children and other victims and survivors of sex trafficking.” 

Pornhub, one of the most-visited websites in the world, has been accused multiple times of streaming and hosting videos of sex trafficking victims engaged in pornographic acts. The DOJ previously charged a popular pornographic film production company with a slew of sex trafficking offenses, including forcing women into making adult videos that were later uploaded to Pornhub without their consent.

“These publicized cases clearly represent just the tip of the iceberg of women and children being exploited in videos on Pornhub,” Sasse wrote. “I applaud the actions that the Department has already undertaken … but Pornhub must not escape scrutiny.”

Pornhub in a statement said that it maintains a “steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the Internet, including non-consensual content and under-age material.”

Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate,” Pornhub said, pointing out that its efforts go “above and beyond” the DOJ’s recently-released guidelines around combatting child sexual exploitation. 

Sasse’s letter comes just days after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a controversial, highly anticipated bill aimed at holding tech companies like Facebook and Google accountable for images and videos of child sexual exploitation on their platforms. Several Republicans on the committee declined to sign on to the bill, citing concerns around the Fourth Amendment and government overreach.

Sasse is taking a narrower approach to the volatile issue, claiming pornography websites like Pornhub should face repercussions for perpetrating the sexual exploitation online. 

“Pornhub’s incredible reach has a much darker side than the image of harmless fun that it tries to project,” he wrote. “In several notable incidents over the past year, Pornhub made content available worldwide showing women and girls that were victims of trafficking being raped and exploited.”

His perspective echoes comments from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which said in a recent statement that Graham’s legislative efforts to combat child sexual exploitation “will fall short unless the major adult obscenity websites accessed by millions across the globe are prosecuted.”

“Some mainstream pornography websites have been caught mixing child sexual abuse videos (i.e. underage pornography) with adult material and can thus be charged with child pornography offenses,” said National Center on Sexual Exploitation President and CEO Patrick A. Trueman in a statement.

“The federal government ought to enforce adult obscenity laws, which have been repeatedly upheld by the Supreme Court, if they are ever going to decrease the demand for child sexual abuse material,” Trueman said.

The DOJ declined to comment on the letter. 

Updated at 7:08 P.M. 

Tags Ben Sasse Lindsey Graham

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