Dozens of women have sued the company that owns PornHub, alleging the adult video website profits from non-consensual content.
A lawsuit filed in California by 34 women claims the site is a “classic criminal enterprise” run in the same way as the fictional Sopranos mafia.
MindGeek, the owner of PornHub, has created a “bustling marketplace” for “child pornography, rape videos, trafficked videos and every other form of non-consensual content”, it is alleged.
“This is a case about rape, not pornography,” the lawsuit states. “It is a case about the rape and sexual exploitation of children. It is a case about the rape and sexual exploitation of men and women.
“And it is a case about each of these defendants knowingly and intentionally electing to capitalise and profit from the horrendous exploitation and abuse of tens of thousands of other human beings so they could make more than the enormous sums of money they would have otherwise made anyway. ”
Only one of the plaintiffs is named in the lawsuit, while four are listed as being citizens of the UK when they were filmed.
And 14 said they were underage at the time and should be considered “a victim of child sex trafficking”.
Crystal Palace footballer Leigh Nicol shared a statement on Twitter and said she was a victim after her private videos appeared on the site.
The 25-year-old said: “When the videos appeared on PornHub it ruined my life, it killed my personality, it zapped the happiness out of me. It brought me almost two years of shame, depression, anxiety, horrifying thoughts, public embarrassment and scars.
“I still bear those scars. It’ll be an ongoing battle for the foreseeable future for myself and other survivors.”
Serena Fleites is the only woman named in the lawsuit. It is alleged she was 13 when her boyfriend coerced her into making a sexually explicit video.
It was uploaded to Pornhub without her knowledge or consent, the lawsuit states, and was viewed millions of times.
Ms Fleites became depressed and attempted suicide as a result of the video, it is claimed.
According to the lawsuit, the women have suffered “substantial damages,” including “physical, psychological, financial and reputational harm”.
It states MindGeek’s websites are some of the most popular on the internet and the online porn industry as a whole may generate as much as 97 billion dollars a year (€81 billion).
Lawyers for the women are demanding substantial damages.
In a statement, Pornhub said it has “zero tolerance” for illegal content and investigates all complaints.
It described the allegations of running a criminal enterprise similar to that of the Sopranos as “utterly absurd, completely reckless and categorically false”.
And Pornhub said its website has “the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history, which include the banning of uploads from unverified users, expanding our moderation processes and cooperating with dozens of non-profit organisations around the world”.