Survivors speaking up as Canada continues to investigate Mindgeek

Content warning: This article covers topics such as sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of minors. 

On Feb. 19, the House of Commons ethics committee heard several survivors’ accounts of being traumatized by Pornhub’s refusal to take down exploitative videos from its website, which included sexual abuse and underage individuals.

The survivors said their traumas were exacerbated due to Pornhub’s continuous refusal to remove such videos. These survivors, living in the United States and Canada, explained how Pornhub, which is owned by Mindgeek, had constantly rejected their pleas for action made through all available channels.

In fact, there are numerous allegations of this kind. For long, Mindgeek has been accused of hosting abusive content, such as rape and exploitation of underage girls. For instance, last January, an Ontario woman initiated a $600 million class-action lawsuit against Mindgeek, alleging she was videotaped being raped as a 12-year-old, and the recording was posted on Pornhub.

On Feb. 5, top executives of Mindgeek testified before the House of Commons ethics committee. In the face of these accusations, they still claimed they run “the safest adult platform in the world right now.”

In 2004, two Concordia graduates, Stephane Manos and Ouissam Youssef, founded an entity in Montreal named “Mansef,” where the main function was to hold links to various free pornographic websites, and sold these assets after six years. After another change of ownership in 2013, this company got its current name Mindgeek, which is most well known for its flagship website Pornhub. Manos and Youssef successfully continued their entrepreneurship journey, and now run Valsef Group — a technology investment group mostly focused on software business. In 2019, they contributed to Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Centre to support the “ANA Avatar XPRIZE” competition.

Mindgeek, the company they once founded and nurtured, continued its impactful journey. In terms of traffic, Pornhub has always remained in the global top list. However, since this past year, Mindgeek has come under significant backlash for different controversies.

Run from a commercial complex on Decarie Boulevard in Montreal — along with its other offices in the United States, Luxembourg and Cyprus — Mindgeek possesses some impressive statistics. According to the company website, every day it has over 115 million visitors and 15 terabytes of content uploaded.

On March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day, a large protest took place outside Mindgeek headquarters in Montreal, as part of a continuous campaign. Similar demonstrations occurred in the same location on Oct. 2, the International Day of Non-Violence.

This protest ultimately turned into a weekly practice, which continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every Tuesday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., activists and demonstrators protest outside Mindgeek’s Montreal headquarters. This endeavour is being led by “Stop Exploitation Hub,” a Quebec-based non-partisan and non-religious campaign against Mindgeek.

In early December 2020, The New York Times published a special op-ed which detailed experiences of women victimized by this website, as it continued monetization on content depicting child rape, and revenge pornography (when someone publicizes intimate photos of their former partner without their consent).

Some of them narrated how videos depicting them being raped as an underage girl were never removed from the website, even after years of requesting Pornhub to take them down.

On Dec. 4, 2020, after being asked during his regular press briefing, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his deep concern over the issue and stated that the government would continue to work with its law enforcing agencies to tackle it.

After a week, a motion was unanimously passed in the parliament, asking senior officials of Mindgeek to testify regarding recent allegations before the House of Commons ethics committee, which ultimately happened on Feb. 5, 2021.

A crucial development occurred on Dec. 10 2020, when Mastercard and Visa announced that they had started blocking their customers from using their credit cards to make purchases on Pornhub, due to the presence of unlawful content on the site (Paypal enforced similar blocking in 2019). These steps by online payment giants have been hailed by anti-pornography activists.

Consequently, Mindgeek announced some policy changes on their end: suspending uploads and downloads from all non-verified users and deleting millions of non-verified videos — which were nearly 80 per cent of its hosted content. Mindgeek has announced that it is implementing a standard third-party system, Yoti, for user identity and age verification.

Enforcing age verification for adult sites has been a long demand of the activists. Online age-verification technologies — ID document or face-based verification for anyone accessing the site —  which are commonly used in some countries to verify people intending to buy age-restricted products (such as alcohol, weapons, banking services), are now getting more sophisticated through artificial intelligence.

In 2017, the UK became the first country to legislate mandatory age verification of adult sites. A similar bill is currently under consideration in Canadian parliament. German authorities are currently working with Microsoft to develop a “globally unique” AI process to combat child pornography.

Rapid emergence of digital technology during the last two decades has obviously increased the availability of pornographic contents. However, such tech tools can be utilized to curb the damaging consequences of pornography as well.

Choosing a balanced approach is crucial in this regard. One good example can be how Tumblr (a popular American social networking platform) banned all sorts of adult content in 2018 after discovering uncontrollable presence of child pornogrpahy in their site.

While Mindgeek focuses on surviving amid their current challenges, the Ethics committee will continue to hold hearings to prepare a recommendation report for Parliament on if, and how, Ottawa should intervene in the issue.

Disclaimer: Azfar Adib is a recurring volunteer with “Stop Exploitation Hub.” 


Photograph by Christine Beaudoin


Dear YouTube, mukbangs are a dangerous and deadly trend

Warning: This article contains sensitive material relating to eating disorders. 

If you’re an avid Youtube watcher like me, you’ve probably heard of or have been recommended mukbang videos. Before we dive into this topic, according to, the concept of a mukbang video is a ‘’livestream of a host who binge-eats large quantities of food as they talk to their audience.’’ These videos are often done in storytime format, where the host tells a lengthy past experience while eating and responding to comments from their fanbase.

These videos are also known as eating shows. Popular content creators include Nikocado Avocado, Trisha Paytas, Zach Choi and Stephanie Soo.

Mukbang has often been used by the hosts as an excuse for the abundance of food they consume. Mukbanger Livia Adams, also known by Alwayshungry, admitted to having had an unhealthy relationship to food, as written in The Odyssey. She has gone as far as congratulating herself for the number of hours she lasted without food in a day. Paytas has also admitted to starving herself for weeks to give entertaining mukbangs for her viewers. On Paytas’ page, you can read some seriously disturbing comments.

“I’m on a diet… watching this is giving me some sort of satisfaction like as though I ate, you know?” 

“I watch these videos because I know I physically can’t afford to eat like this because I gain weight too easily.”

“When having an eating disorder, watching Trisha’s mukbangs is sorta comforting in a way omg”

Let’s not forget that these people become famous and rich by starving themselves, downing nauseating amounts of junk food and promoting their self-destructive behaviours to younger audiences. It’s disgusting and disappointing that YouTube is monetizing eating disorders.

One of the biggest issues that I have with mukbang videos is the fact that these Youtubers eat junk food in large quantities—I can assure you that the most popular content creators aren’t downing a salad nor are they inviting their viewers to live a healthy lifestyle. They’re often eating heavily fried foods, fast food, chips or sweets. A lot of mukbangers only show themselves eating, and, since it’s not glamorous, don’t show how their bodies react. Why don’t they show what really goes on behind the scenes? No human being can be healthy and alright after consuming 10,000 calories in one sitting—by themselves—without any health repercussions, especially after starving themselves.

A study by Hanwool Choe, a sociolinguistics Ph.D. student at Georgetown University shows that many people resort to watching mukbangs to feel less alone while eating, provide a sense of community and sometimes even satisfy some fetish.

As stated by Medical Daily, mukbangs promote overeating and may be causing people to practice detrimental eating habits. We all need to hold Youtube accountable for the content they promote and monetize. It’s unethical for behaviour like this to be so openly presented on a website used by 1.9 billion users every month.

Why do people enjoy watching this sort of content, where people are witnessing the destruction of someone else’s body? Well… it’s actually a brutal human emotion called Schadenfreude, defined by Science News as the “process of perceiving a person or social group as lacking the attributes that define what it means to be human.’’

Schadenfreude, the phenomenon of online voyeurism and the strong influence of social media, all feed into the obsession of looking at others rather than working on ourselves. With one click, we are able to look through digital windows and learn everything about that person, even though it may be an inaccurate depiction.

In all honesty, mukbangs aren’t all created to cause harm, but they seem to be hurting more people than helping.  The internet should not be where people with eating disorders hurt themselves and inadvertently trigger those who see these videos. Youtube needs to care more about their viewers than the money they make.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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