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Goodbye, Exploitation: Instagram Suspends Pornhub’s Account Amid Criminal Allegations

September 8, 2022

Over the weekend, Instagram delivered a hit to the pornography industry by deplatforming Pornhub from its audience of over 13 million followers. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) claims the Meta-owned company’s action is a result of their lobbying against the organization. In a press release, CEO Dawn Hawkins applauds Instagram’s stand against sexual exploitation. “Instagram is courageously choosing to stop partnering with Pornhub, and it is time for all corporate entities to follow its example,” Hawkins said.


“[They were] right to remove Pornhub from its platform for violating its community standards given the increasing reports of Pornhub hosting child sexual abuse material, sex trafficking, filmed rape, and non-consensual videos and images,” Hawkins went on. “Instagram served as a distribution partner with this criminal enterprise, helping to push millions to their website, including children. We are grateful that Instagram has heard the voices of sexual abuse survivors who have been personally harmed by Pornhub’s insatiable appetite for profit.”

While the pornography distributor did not post explicit content on their Instagram page, which would directly violate the social media site’s Community Guidelines, it did promote its consumption, direct people to their site, and encourage careers in the industry, according to NCOSE. Hawkins told The Washington Stand, “We will continue to hold companies accountable for profiting from someone else’s abuse, period. We hope everyone will join us in the fight against sexual exploitation.”

Instagram is not the only mega corporation backing off from their business relationship with Pornhub. In 2020, a New York Times piece pulled back the curtain on child sexual abuse materials and nonconsensual sexual content on the Canadian porn site, launching an investigation by many on Pornhub’s potential complicitness. Amidst allegations that the site was profiting off of child sexual abuse materials and nonconsensual sexual content, Mastercard, Visa, and Discover suspended the use of their cards on the site. Mastercard has since added further restrictions to using their cards for payment on adult sites, and Visa has stopped processing ad payments from Pornhub, as their criminality is in question.

In contrast to Instagram’s decision, NCOSE brings awareness to companies such as Snapchat, who continues to be a minefield for predators, prostitution, and trafficking.

As NCOSE claimed victory over the weekend, Fox Digital reports that Pornhub representatives fired back. They claimed that the suspended account is the result of “anti-porn zealots” with “noted histories of propagating false information and extremist policies against sex workers,” and more to do with a temporary mistake by Instagram’s sensitive censoring. NCOSE responded that Pornhub’s criticism of Instagram’s censoring was ironic, considering their lack of censoring illegal content on the explicit site.

“We hope Instagram's decision is a permanent one,” they told Fox Digital.

According to NCOSE, because pornography is a public health crisis that is harming society, it’s important to push back on the industry. “Research points to pornography’s addictive nature,” Hawkins told TWS. “A 2021 study on cognitive processes related to pornography use found that excessive time and effort is spent watching and searching for pornography, resulting in impaired self-control over pornography use, failure to fulfill family, social, and work responsibilities, and persistence in these sexual behaviors regardless of the personal consequences.”

Pornography has increasingly become normalized and widely consumed in modern day society. One statistic shows that every minute, top porn sites get over two million visitors. Hawkins continued, “Adolescents are more susceptible than adults to addictions and to developmental effects on the brain. And we know that children are being exposed to hardcore pornography through smartphones, school computers, [and] at their friends’ homes.” Another source informs that the average age of pornography exposure happens by a child’s pre-teen years.

President and CEO of Adult & Teen Challenge USA, Gary Blackard, confirms the highly addictive nature of pornography, after years of walking alongside pornography addicts through his nonprofit. “As we deal with those struggling with addiction, many we serve [have] had some form of sexual abuse, sexual trauma, or deep engagement in pornography and/or prostitution,” he told TWS. “The pornography industry is filled with people struggling with substance use disorders to cope with the abuses they are subjected to. Research has also shown pornography to release the same neurotransmitters as found in other addictions, such as dopamine and serotonin.”

NCOSE warns that the addictive properties are just the tip of the iceberg of the dark side of pornography. Hawkins pointed out, “Pornhub and other online pornography sites are inherently exploitative. Way too frequently, pornography serves as a teacher to those who view it, which means that child sexual abuse, rape, incest, and racist material is normalized.”

“Now, we need the DOJ to [do] its job,” said Donna Rice Hughes, president and CEO of Enough is Enough, in a statement. “Law enforcement must declare war on all forms of sexual exploitation and prosecute Pornhub for a trifecta of violations of three U.S. Federal laws: trafficking, child sex abuse material and obscenity.”

Family Research Council’s Joy Stockbauer, a policy analyst with the Center for Human Dignity, says the demand for pornography is fueling the sex trafficking industry, and it needs to be pulled up from the roots. She told TWS, “Pornography is a major cog in the machine of sex trafficking. Sites like Pornhub thrive on user-generated content that can contain images and footage of the sexual assault, abuse, or exploitation of women and children. Pornography viewers have no way of knowing if the content they are viewing was created consensually, or if they are witnessing someone’s sexual assault.”

“Corporations like Instagram, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover are doing well by cutting ties with the pornography industry,” Stockbauer said, “but individuals need to hold themselves to a higher standard as well and stop fueling the demand for exploitative pornographic content.”

Marjorie Jackson is a reporter for The Washington Stand and FRC's Digital Media Specialist.