The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Pornhub says it has removed all content uploaded by non-verified users. The sex website faced accusations it hosted illegal content. The company, which is owned by Montreal-based MindGeek, says it has suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by one of its content partners or members of its Model Program. THE CANADIAN PRESS

40 women in California launch suit against Montreal-based parent company of Pornhub

40 women in California launch suit against Montreal-based parent company of Pornhub

MONTREAL — A Montreal-based company that runs a popular porn website is being sued by 40 women in California who claim it continues to profit from pornographic videos of them that were published without their full consent.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. district court alleges MindGeek, parent company of Pornhub, knew or should have known that one of its commercial partners regularly used fraud and coercion to get women to appear in videos.

It alleges MindGeek did not end its partnership with GirlsDoPorn until that company’s operators were charged by U.S. authorities in November 2019. One of GirlsDoPorn’s operators, Ruben Andre Garcia, pleaded guilty in November to two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

According to the lawsuit, MindGeek and GirlsDoPorn entered into a partnership in 2011. The deal allegedly allowed videos created by GirlsDoPorn to be hosted on MindGeek’s sites, such as Pornhub.

The lawsuit also claims that MindGeek-owned websites did not remove videos when requested by the women who appeared in them. In some of those requests, the women explicitly stated that they were coerced, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit says GirlsDoPorn allegedly targeted women under the age of 22 and recruited them under false pretences. At no point were the women told the videos were being made by GirlsDoPorn, the lawsuit alleges.

In January 2020, a California state court awarded 22 women who had appeared in GirlsDoPorn videos nearly US$13 million in damages.

While MindGeek is legally headquartered in Luxembourg, its main office is in Montreal. The company operates dozens of pornographic websites, including Pornhub, one of the most popular websites on the internet.

The lawsuit names MindGeek and two subsidiaries and seeks at least US$1 million in punitive damages and at least US$1 million in compensatory damages for each of the 40 plaintiffs.

MindGeek did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2020.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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