Pornhub exposed itself as an unsavory tech giant in a Netflix documentary

Each week in this column we review the week’s biggest streaming releases, but there’s one streaming service that gets ignored despite putting out content that, at least cumulatively, eclipses Netflix, Prime, and Disney combined: Pornhub.

are is the erotic film that entered the wider public consciousness (1972s). deepthroatchecked by the New York Times and breaking box office records was an exception) and most of the time a discreet veil is drawn over the oceans of dirt that make up most of Internet traffic.

But porn and market leader Pornhub continue to shape broader culture and have been at the forefront of issues that have rocked the tech and entertainment industries in recent years: exploitation of women, piracy and a fair chance for content producers.

In Moneyshot: The Pornhub Story (Netflix), Writer/director Suzanne Hillinger first reveals that the company behind Pornhub, Mindgeek, is a no-nonsense, deeply corporate outfit with not a fluffer in sight.

When Pornhub started disrupting the VHS porn market by allowing free or cheap streaming, the existing porn industry was as unprepared as movies, music, and publishers, so porn performers had to put up with their work being given away.

But then the platform started collaborating with the established studios and allowed the actors themselves to monetize their performances. Suddenly, like YouTube (in fact, one of the actresses interviewed compares herself to a YouTuber), a new meritocracy was created.

The problem, as Hillinger’s Talking Heads say, is that Pornhub has gotten too big and too greedy. Even as it went mainstream, renting billboards in Times Square and becoming the cheeky face of the entire industry, it continued to allow copyright infringement and illegal content, some of which depicts child sexual abuse, to be uploaded to its platform.

​Unfortunately, there wasn’t much of a difference between Pornhub and other tech giants. And indeed, long before Twitter et al even thought about it, the porn industry was at the forefront of enacting human moderation (can you think of a worse job?). But a new coalition of anti-porn activists, advocates representing exploited people and Christian evangelists rushed to take over the company. This, in turn, set the stage for negative media attention — there’s an in-depth interview with Nicholas Kristof, whose 2020 New York Times Piece “The Children of Pornhub” illuminated the darkest corners of the platform – and showdowns in the courtroom.

Pornhub responded to this pressure by removing thousands of unverified videos, but in the meantime, the porn performers themselves continued to argue (and continue) that any attempt to shut down Pornhub would limit their ability to make money.

Watching this documentary, I was struck by how literally Hillinger had taken the edict to “follow the money.” It’s really the story of a big company with an unsavory product and motley, disenfranchised workers.

She never really digs into the impact porn has had on our culture or, in all but the funniest way, the things it reveals about society and the changing nature of sexuality. A clip from Jimmy Kimmel’s show is shown, in which the host says that the news that “divorce” is the most popular porn category in Arkansas might be “the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” but it really is that close as possible.

video of the day

A newspaper headline flashes across the screen saying “Porn Ruins Marriages,” but this claim, which may have some truth (some research has compared the effects of porn on the brain to that of cocaine), is grounded in broader moral concerns by the majority thrown into a pot.

Part of the documentary’s thesis is that it was the size and ubiquity of Pornhub that made it a target for lawmakers and law enforcement. But maybe it’s that size and corporate lineage that makes it vulnerable to public pressure.

A tweet pops up late in the film: “If you think Pornhub is bad, you’re going to hate where people go when it’s really closed.” We can force this cheesy platform out of existence, the message seems to be, but nothing will change the seemingly insatiable market it served.

The Best of the Rest: Newcomers to the block

This show caused pauses for breath when it premiered at festivals in America last year. It tells the story of an obsessive pop star fan who embarks on a cross-country journey that will lead them into some dark adventures involving murder, lots of sex and binge eating.

Teddy Lasso
This is the snuggly manager’s third and possibly final season, whose sunshine serves as a counterpoint to the grim reality of top-flight football. He’s given his team a promotion but lost their star player – but you know he’ll make it through somehow.

Climate change dramas can feel like the opposite of nurturing escapism, but this series, set in a bleak future nearly 20 years from now, has starred the likes of Meryl Streep, Forest Whitaker and Marion Cotillard, so it’s basically the law that you must see it .


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