Protest against sex trafficking at PornHub Montreal

Protesters demand justice for victims and for PornHub to be held accountable

Protesters gathered outside MindGeek’s headquarters, PornHub’s parent company, on Decarie Blvd. on Friday. They allege the website is profiting from videos involving child abuse and sex trafficking.

Organized by Christian anti-trafficking group ExodusCry as part of their TraffickingHub campaign, similar demonstrations also took place outside PornHub offices in Los Angeles and London.

“The movement is not about the larger legal porn industry,” said TraffickingHub founder Laila Mickelwait. “It is specifically and only about PornHub and its parent company MindGeek being complicit in serious sex crimes against women and children on a massive scale.”

PornHub is in turn pointing fingers at ExodusCry, a spokesperson saying PornHub is troubled by their rhetoric toward “those who don’t abide by their vision of purity.”

Two police cars surveyed the demonstration, as did several security guards posted inside the MindGeek building. Photo Eric Dicaire

Watched closely by four police officers in vehicles and security guards inside the office entrance, the group waved signs and coaxed horn blasts from passing cars. The rain caused protestors to huddle under umbrellas—the sound of rain bouncing off the umbrellas combined with the noisy highway to drown out any attempts at chanting.

The protest follows larger demonstrations held in March, sparked by news the FBI had charged the owners of two adult sites hosted by PornHub with sex trafficking crimes. The crowd of people standing in the rain today, however, was much smaller—less than 20 in total.

Protesters were under strict orders by the police to not venture too close to the modern glass offices of MindGeek. The building is in stark contrast to the rest of what is a generally gloomy zone of Montreal—save the bright dome of the Orange Julep across the street—and it dwarfed the modestly sized group of protesters.

“The movement is not about the larger legal porn industry. It is specifically and only about PornHub and its parent company MindGeek being complicit in serious sex crimes against women and children on a massive scale.” —Laila Mickelwait

Those present remained resolute in their cause, yet it appears PornHub’s content was not the sole target of their protest. One of the organizers, Penny Rankin, president of the Montreal Council of Women, is concerned about the ease with which children can access porn websites, and said this protest was about “protecting young brains, young hearts, and young souls.” She called for the Canadian government to initiate more stringent age verification laws managed by a third party.

“I know for sure that every single party in the Canadian government […] is interested in protecting children,” she said. “We have laws in place across Canada that everybody is very comfortable with.”

“[W]e don’t allow children into R-rated films,” she added, “but we have allowed a gap to form in our legislation.”

PornHub, however, said in a statement provided to The Link that it is committed to “eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and under-age material,” and have “comprehensive safeguards across its platform to combat and remove all unauthorized content that breaches the platform’s policies.”

Protesters stood huddle under umbrellas, the sound of rain and passing cars muffling their chants. Photo Eric Dicaire

“This includes employing an extensive team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing every single upload, a robust system for flagging, reviewing and removing all illegal material, age-verification tools, and a variety of automated detection technologies,” the statement said.

Talk among the protesters suggests there’s more to come. Francois L., who preferred not to share his full name, thinks the protest will become a monthly event.