June 1, 2022

“This is - quite simply – unacceptable.”[i]

In 1986, the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography reported “the greatest bulk of child pornography is produced by child-abusers themselves in largely ‘cottage industry’ fashion.”[ii] “Cottage industry” usually refers to a small-scale industry carried on at home by family members using their own equipment.[iii] Much has changed since 1986.

Twenty-five years after that report, on May 19, 2011, then Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., speaking in San Jose, California to the National Strategy Conference on Combating Child Exploitation, supplemented the 1986 report, stating,

“Unfortunately, we´ve … seen a historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we´ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims. This is – quite simply – unacceptable.”[iv]

Five years after Holder’s statement, during April 2016, the U. S. Department of Justice informed Congress in the National Strategy For Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction report,[v] that “child pornography cases frequently involve offenders or evidence located abroad, which complicates, delays, or thwarts successful investigation and prosecution.”[vi] Another finding in that April, 2016 report was that “mobile devices” can now “be used to photograph or film a child being sexually abused, access child pornography stored in remote locations, and stream video of child sexual abuse.”[vii] In 2017 it was reported that “[r]arely a week goes by in the United States that a child pornographer is not charged or sentenced for federal crimes related to the sexual exploitation of children…”[viii]

In May 2022 giant commercial entities arrogantly defend their involvement in the rise in the distribution of child pornography, in a number of civil lawsuits being brought by victims of the pornography industry. One example of such cases is Jane Doe #1 v. MG Freesites, Ltd. d/b/a/ “PORNHUB”. The Defendants in this case are facing allegations that they “…violated federal sex trafficking and child pornography [*3] laws by owning, operating, controlling, and profiting from websites that provide public video platforms to share and view illegal child pornography. Jane Doe #1 v. MG Freesites, Ltd., No. 7:21-cv-00220-LSC, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23199 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 9, 2022).” What has been alleged involves no “cottage industry.”

As stated by the Federal District Court in this Pornhub case, when the Court overruled the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss:

“The following facts are taken from the Plaintiffs' complaint and are assumed to be true for purposes of the pending motion to dismiss. Defendants… own and operate one of the largest and most-visited pornographic websites in the world, www.Pornhub.com ("Pornhub"), as well as www.YouPorn.com, www.RedTube.com, www.WTube.com, and www.Tube8.com. FAC 15, 46. In 2019, Pornhub averaged 115 million visits a day and acquired 1.36 million hours of new content. Id. 47. Nearly seven million new videos were uploaded to Pornhub in 2019. Id. Thirty-nine billion searches were performed over 42 billion visits. Id. Pornhub garnered more traffic than tech giants Amazon and Netflix that year. Id. 167. The United States is the country with the highest daily traffic on Pornhub, and Alabama users rank second in the nation in time spent on Pornhub. Id. 48.

“Pornhub's main feature is a library of pornographic videos uploaded by third-party users, [*4] which Defendants make available for free to anyone, without a viewer even having to create an account. Id. 52, 96. Until December 2020, videos could be uploaded anonymously, and there was no requirement that the uploader verify the age or consent of those depicted in the videos. Id. 97. Until December 2020, visitors to the site could not only view but also download videos. Id. 98, 119. Defendants monetize the pornographic content on their websites in various ways: offering subscription services, selling advertising space, entering into profit sharing agreements with uploaders, and data mining. Id. 98, 101, 148. Defendants' enterprise is profitable: annual revenues are at least $500 million. Id. 128.”[ix]

According to a December 15, 2020 news report, “Pornhub … removed a majority of its content -- millions of explicit videos -- uploaded from unverified users as part of a series of changes following allegations that the site showed videos of child abuse and nonconsensual sexual behavior…[t]he changes took the number of videos on the website from 13.5 million videos down to a little under 3 million. Going forward, content creators must become verified using Pornhub's process that involves uploading a picture of themselves with their username...” [x]

“Child pornography…” according to the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) of the U.S. Department of Justice website, “… is a form of child sexual exploitation. Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (persons less than 18 years old) … Images of child pornography are also referred to as child sexual abuse images...this term fails to describe the true horror that is faced by countless children every year… The production of child pornography creates a permanent record of a child’s sexual abuse…When these images are placed on the Internet and disseminated online, the victimization of the children continues in perpetuity. Experts and victims agree that victims depicted in child pornography often suffer a lifetime of re-victimization by knowing the images of their sexual abuse are on the Internet forever. The children exploited in these images must live with the permanency, longevity, and circulation of such a record of their sexual victimization… This often creates lasting psychological damage to the child, including disruptions in sexual development, self-image, and developing trusting relationships with others in the future.”[xi]

The Pornhub case referred to above has not yet gone to trial. Whether the Plaintiffs can prove their allegations has not yet been determined. The Defendants in that case do not agree that they are liable to the Plaintiffs. This confrontation is reminiscent of the battle between David and Goliath. Valiantly supporting the cause of the Plaintiffs in their pursuit of justice is the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) Law Center. The Law Center, according to its website, “is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian entity that believes law is one of the greatest tools for defending human dignity against sex trafficking, pornography, child sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual violence…,” because it is …”[t]he law …[that]…sets social norms, punishes exploiters, and gives justice to survivors.” [xii]

The 1986 Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography in its report referred to “the inseparable relationship between child pornography and child abuse.”[xiii] That Commission also stated in the 1986 report that “to take child pornography more seriously is to take sexual abuse of children more seriously, and vice versa. It is apparent that as of the date of this report the sexual abuse of children is being taken increasingly seriously in this country, and we applaud that increased concern for a problem that has long been both largely unspoken and largely avoided.”[xiv]

Is it possible that the growth of what was described in 1986 as a “cottage industry,” that is now alleged to generate “annual revenues…[of]… at least $500 million,” has grown, at least in part, because this “problem,” as it was in 1986, remains “largely unspoken and largely avoided?” In 2022, are people of faith talking to their children, friends, and others, about the “harmful and addictive nature of pornography and its corrosive effect on public health?”

It is time for people of faith to start having these necessary discussions, to start acting to bring light to this area of darkness, and not allow the problems caused by pornography to remain “both largely unspoken and largely avoided.”

“If not you, then who? If not now, when?”[xv]

[i] https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/child-pornography#:~:text=%E2%80%9CUnfortunately%2C%20we%C2%B4ve,quite%20simply%20%E2%80%93%20unacceptable.%E2%80%9D [ii][ii]McManus, Michael J., (1986) Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, p.70, Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville TN. [iii]https://www.bing.com/search?q=cottage+industry+definition&form=ANNTH1&refig=c681fe904cfe43369bdd3d092744ab04&sp=2&qs=SC&pq=cottage+indurstry&sk=PRES1SC1&sc=8-17&cvid=c681fe904cfe43369bdd3d092744ab04&ntref=1#:~:text=n.%201.-,A%20usually%20small%2Dscale%20industry%20carried%20on%20at%20home%20by%20family%20members%20using%20their%20own%20equipment.,-2.%20A%20small [iv]https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/child-pornography#:~:text=Unfortunately%2C%20we%C2%B4ve,May%2019%2C%202011. [v] https://www.justice.gov/psc/national-strategy-child-exploitation-prevention-and-interdiction#introduction [vi] https://www.justice.gov/psc/national-strategy-child-exploitation-prevention-and-interdiction#:~:text=Child%20pornography%20cases%20frequently%20involve%20offenders%20or%20evidence%20located%20abroad%2C%20which%20complicates%2C%20delays%2C%20or%20thwarts%20successful%20investigation%20and%20prosecution [vii] https://www.justice.gov/psc/national-strategy-child-exploitation-prevention-and-interdiction#:~:text=Mobile%20devices%20can%20be%20used%20to%20photograph%20or%20film%20a%20child%20being%20sexually%20abused%2C%20access%20child%20pornography%20stored%20in%20remote%20locations%2C%20and%20stream%20video%20of%20child%20sexual%20abuse. [viii] https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/the-scourge-of-child-pornography [ix] https://app.decisis.com/decisis?crid=1ecfe1e1-3b1c-485e-8d9d-deab9ffdfc31#:~:text=The%20following%20facts,Id.%20%C2%B6%20128. [x] https://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/news/business/pornhub-removes-a-majority-of-its-videos-after-investigation-reveals-child-abuse/article_cb6b4adb-5c63-5c8b-b833-144f33d37fd0.html [xi] https://www.justice.gov/criminal-ceos/child-pornography [xii] https://sexualexploitationlawsuits.com/about-us/#:~:text=The%20National%20Center%20on%20Sexual%20Exploitation%20(NCOSE,legislation%20that%20promotes%20human%20dignity%20and%20flourishing. [xiii] McManus, Michael J., (1986) Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, p.70, Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville TN [xiv]McManus, Michael J., (1986) Final Report of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, p.70, Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville TN [xv] Quote often attribute to R. Hillel, a 1st Century religious leader