Sex & Relationships

Pornhub Made Big Changes To Who Can Upload Videos On The Platform

The site's becoming less like YouTube and more like Netflix.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In a year when staying home and masturbating was encouraged, adult content site Pornhub was poised to be one of the few silver linings of 2020. The site is closing out its year with both porn-watchers and sex workers distraught following several new policy changes.

Following a Dec. 4 The New York Times op-ed documenting human trafficking survivors who were non consensually abused, filmed, and posted onto the site, Mastercard Inc and Visa Inc stopped processing payments on Pornhub. This means Pornhub users will not be able to purchase content with their Mastercard or Visa card accounts, and Pornhub performers will not be able to be paid by such. As of now, Mastercard has terminated payments permanently, and Visa has suspended payments until its own investigation is complete.

"Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site,” Mastercard spokesperson Seth Eisen told The Verge. “As a result, and in accordance with our policies, we instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance."

On Dec. 14, Pornhub stated in a blog post that they'd removed all content not created and uploaded by members of The Pornhub Content Partner Program or Model Program, which includes millions of videos by unverified users. They've also nixed the download feature, stopping users from saving and resharing the content they stream on the site. Think of it this way: Pornhub is becoming less like YouTube and more like Netflix. Previously, any site user could upload content to Pornhub, but the site has now banned unverified users from posting new content.

"The safety of our community is our top priority," Pornhub's statement read. "All social media platforms share the responsibility to combat illegal material."

What does this mean?

Bustle reached out to Pornhub but did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication. But a Pornhub spokesperson told The Verge that the news was “exceptionally disappointing, crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods."

As Pornhub continues to strengthen protections and user guidelines, the effects of these payment changes may be felt most by sex workers and performers. In a Dec. 10 statement, the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Barsstated in Visa and Mastercard's absence, Pornhub will likely switch to cryptocurrency, leaving sex workers in the lurch.

"Because of this decision, many sex workers will be forced even further into the margins," the statement reads. "The action from MasterCard and VISA will cause harm to our already suffering community members and will have zero impact on the Pornhub platform."

While these new regulations sound promising in reducing harmful content from being published on Pornhub, they're often an entryway for conservative, religious, anti-sex work policy to flourish. Much like the 2018 Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA/FOSTA) laws, which were marketed as "anti-trafficking policy" but put sex workers in reality at higher risk for criminal prosecution, physical danger, and ultimately trafficking and sexual abuse from clients.

On Dec. 9, Republican U.S. Senator Josh Hawley introduced Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act, a bipartisan bill aimed to support survivors of porn industry exploitation to sue host websites. "Sites like Pornhub routinely escape responsibility for facilitating abuse, trafficking, and exploitation, making millions for themselves in the process," Senator Hawley stated. "Meanwhile, the victims of this abuse have little recourse against these powerful companies." Again, while this seems like protection for sex workers, it's important to note that Senator Hawley is vehemently anti-abortion, was previously the Missouri Attorney General, and has been on record saying that "sexual freedom leads to slavery."

You can still watch porn (& support sex workers).

If you're a Pornhub regular, you can still access the site with a credit card in their network. If you're looking to make a switch, ethical or feminist porn ensures that sex workers are treated ethically and fairly compensated for their labor (check out smaller porn sites like Sex School, Bright Desire, of afterglow). And if you want to support the sex workers impacted directly, consider donating to SWOP Behind Bars or your local sex worker mutual aid.