Lead complainant of class-action lawsuit says her sex abuse as a child was posted on PornHub

The Canadian company accused of profiting from sexual trauma. In Part 5 of Cristina Howorun's exclusive City investigation: the woman leading a class-action lawsuit against Pornhub tells how she discovered images of her childhood abuse. 

By Cristina Howorun

WARNING: This story contains graphic content related to violence and abuse, and may be disturbing to some readers. If you or someone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, you can call the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-833-900-1010

Over the course of several years, Jane Doe was raped and sexually abused by a family member. When he died, she thought she could finally close that chapter of her life. But then, a social media message reopened that book.

“It was in my “message requests,” so I didn’t see it right away,” Jane Doe, as she is known in a $600M class action lawsuit against MindGeek- the owner of PornHub, told CityNews. “When I opened it, I froze.”

The message included a link to a video a former high school friend found on PornHub. He said he recognized her and was flagging it for her to check.

Pornhub is one of the largest pornography empires in the world and it’s becoming even more of a household name, but not for good reasons.

The Montreal-based website, has been accused of sharing pornographic videos of people without their consent, of human trafficking and even disseminating child pornography.

Pornhub has been subject to parliamentary probes, multiple lawsuits across the world and a class-action lawsuit here in Canada. The company recently settled a lawsuit involving 50 women, including four Canadians, who alleged they were duped into taking part of a massive human trafficking ring.

The only class-action suit in Canada against MindGeek is being spearheaded by Jane Doe. At the time the video was shot, she was only twelve years old.

“I could tell just based on the image … what occurred in the video,” said Jane Doe.

“There were links to others. And I was able to locate more videos by going through the comments section, clicking them, and seeing that through still images. But this was still me around the same age and different events,” said Jane. “It just took my breath away.”

The $600 million class-action lawsuit filed in a Quebec court in December, alleges that up until recently, MindGeek had no policies or procedures to investigate several aspects of their videos.

These include:

  • Steps to ensure each video was obtained with consent;
  • Content user’s practices or reputation;
  • Did not have enough properly trained moderators to review footage for sex trafficking, rape or underage people.

MindGeek has so far declined to comment on the case.

“I feel like it had to have been so incredibly obvious to anybody watching it that this was a child and I thought that if this ever existed on the Internet that, you know, it’s on the dark web where people are intentionally going to look for this and it’s not for public consumption,” said Jane Doe.

In February, MindGeek’s senior leadership testified at parliamentary hearings they had introduced new age verification processes, had human moderators watch every single video, and increased user reporting features for the speedy removal of inappropriate content.

But Jane Doe said she hit roadblocks when trying to get the content of her taken down. She said she used the link on the PornHub website for content removal and submitted the videos of her.

Jane Doe said she received a generic response about five days later, but still is not sure if it has been removed.

“But even if PornHub takes it down, it’ll just resurface somewhere else because there’s those download features available. It’s always going to be there,” she added.

The company says they have since removed the download function for most of their content, excluding paid content.

Several other victims have testified that PornHub put up big roadblocks to have content taken down.

“It sucks. It really sucks. It really sucks to think that it doesn’t matter how old I am, that my sexual abuse as a child is immortalized in videos and not just on somebody’s private computer, but on the internet and its never going to go away,” said Jane Doe.

When asked if she thinks MindGeek is taking this issue seriously, Jane Doe said she doesn’t feel they are understanding the “true impact of their actions and roles in this.”

“Any time somebody comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, I think I recognized you from somewhere.’ Instantly, you’re going, ‘Oh my god.’ And it’s always a thought, it doesn’t go away, that ‘What if this person’s seen them?’,” said Jane Doe.

Similar allegations prompted Visa and MasterCard to end their relationship with the porn giant – and much of PornHub’s content has been removed over the past 18 months.

The website draws 170 million visitors a day, including four million Canadians, and generates $460 million in annual revenue, according to the company. It frequently ranks among the dozen most-visited sites in the world, ahead of Netflix and Zoom.

With file from The Canadian Press

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