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EXCLUSIVE: Pornhub May Be Protected From Legal Repercussions By Section 230, Rep. Banks Warns

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Pornhub may be protected from legal repercussions under Section 230, Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “Section 230, as it has been historically understood, may be blocking websites like Pornhub from legal repercussions,” Banks said. 
  • Banks; comments refer to a New York Times column alleging that Pornhub is “infested with rape videos” and profits from abusive sexual images of children.

Pornhub may be protected from legal repercussions under Section 230, Republican Indiana Rep. Jim Banks told the Daily Caller News Foundation Tuesday.

Pulitzer prize-winning opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof alleged that Pornhub is “infested with rape videos” in a Friday New York Times op-ed, prompting lawmakers to call for investigations into the massive pornography website.

Banks told the DCNF that Pornhub must be held accountable, but warned that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields social media companies and other internet platforms from liability for much of the content that individual users post online, may protect the pornography website.

Kristof’s report claims Pornhub monitizes videos of “child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags,” echoing the accusations of many activists that Pornhub profits from exploitative material and does little to remove violent sexual crimes, sometimes against minors, from its website.

“We need to hold everyone associated with the production and dissemination of these videos accountable,” Banks told the DCNF. “They must answer for the exploitation and psychological torture of the women chronicled by the New York Times—and all those victims we don’t know about yet.”

“Section 230, as it has been historically understood, may be blocking websites like Pornhub from legal repercussions,” he continued. “This presents Congress another opportunity to discuss Section 230 reform.” (RELATED: Visa, Mastercard Reviewing Relationship With Pornhub Following NYT Column Alleging The Site Is ‘Infested With Rape Videos’)

Last December, the DCNF reported that Banks led lawmakers in calling on the DOJ to fulfill promises made by President Donald Trump to enforce federal obscenity laws and prioritize the prosecution of pornography producers and distributors.

Obscenity is not protected under the First Amendment, according to the Department of Justice, and violations of federal obscenity laws are criminal offenses. Federal law criminalizes the distribution, transportation, shipping, selling, mailing, and producing with intent to sell or distribute obscene matter. Those who are convicted of these crimes face both fines and imprisonment.

“Given the pervasiveness of obscenity it’s our recommendation that you declare the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority and urge your U.S. Attorneys to bring prosecutions against the major producers and distributors of such material,” GOP lawmakers wrote to the DOJ at the time.

Pornhub has been listed the 10th-most-visited website in the world, with 3.5 billion visits a month, and profits from almost three billion ad impressions every day, Kristof wrote in his New York Times piece.

“A search for ‘girls under18′ (no space) or ’14yo’ leads in each case to more than 100,000 videos,” Kristof wrote. “Most aren’t of children being assaulted, but too many are.” (RELATED: Pornography And Sex Trafficking Are ‘Completely Interwoven,’ Activists Warn)

Kristof’s findings have also prompted the major credit card companies Visa and MasterCard to review their relationship with Pornhub.

In a Monday statement, Pornhub told the DCNF that the new allegations are “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.”

“Due to the nature of our industry, people’s preconceived notions of Pornhub’s values and processes often differ from reality — but it is counterproductive to ignore the facts regarding a subject as serious as CSAM [Child Sexual Abuse Material],” the pornography company said in a statement to the DCNF.

“Any assertion that we allow CSAM is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue,” the Pornhub statement continued. “We have zero tolerance for CSAM. Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating CSAM, and has instituted an industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community.”

The DOJ has not responded to requests for comment from the DCNF.

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