One Billionaire Reportedly Pressured Porn Giant To Purge Millions Of Videos

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The billionaire manager of a massive hedge fund reportedly spearheaded the effort to force Pornhub to remove millions of unverified videos.

Bill Ackman, the president of Pershing Square Capital Management, read The New York Times article “The Children of Pornhub” in December 2020. He then pressured his friend, then-MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, into suspending MasterCard’s contract with Pornhub until the company eliminated rape and revenge porn content, Institutional Investor reported Wednesday. Pornhub ultimately removed more than 78% of its videos following pressure from MasterCard, Visa and politicians. (RELATED: Hawley, Lawmakers Introduce Bills Allowing Victims To Sue Pornhub, Perpetrators)

Ackman considers himself a proponent of environmental, social and governance investing (ESG), in which shareholders invest in or pressure companies to make changes that align more with their values. Pershing Square Capital Management manages more than $13 billion in assets.

“It’s shareholder money that fuels this activity,” Ackman said of Pornhub. “Lots of companies say that they’re really great with ESG issues, but they’ve got to look a little deeper.”

Critics of Pornhub, such as anti-sex trafficking advocate Laila Mickelwait, credit Ackman and Kristof with moving the needle on porn and sex trafficking issues.

“Bill pulled the leverage of the Mastercard relationship, and he called out Visa and Discover. And then, suddenly, there’s reaction from the card companies, and Pornhub deleted 80 percent of their website,” she told Institutional Investor.

Visa, MasterCard and PayPal no longer process payments to Pornhub. In addition, Pornhub removed an option that allowed users to download videos from the site.

“CEOs get a zillion emails, but the one group that rises to the top of the line . . . is its biggest shareholders, influential shareholders,” Ackman added.