Pornhub partners with UK child abuse fighting charity

A stock photo of a phone screen showing the Pornhub logo
[Getty Images]

Pornhub's parent company Aylo has announced it has backed new standards of good practice for pornography sites on combating child abuse, drawn up by UK charity the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

The IWF is a key part of the UK's fight against online child sexual abuse material (CSAM), enabling people and organisations to report suspected online child abuse content.

It hopes the announcement will lead other porn websites to support the voluntary standards developed in partnership with Aylo over a period of 18 months.

But campaigners have told the BBC the standards will only be successful if they lead to real change.

The actions pornographic sites are expected to take include checks that users are over-18, but this could be simply asking users to declare that they are.

But the standards also say they must obey the law and the UK Online Safety Act will soon require much more robust age checks than ticking a box, such as AI face-scanning tech that estimates age.

Aylo has previously argued that forcing sites to check ages drives users to "darker corners of the internet" and has fought legal battles against US state laws requiring age verification.

But now it says it will follow legal requirements.

"We will always comply with the law, and the Online Safety Act is no different, but it is clear from other jurisdictions that site-level age verification does not prevent children from accessing adult content online while creating data privacy issues and increasing exposure to unmoderated, harmful material", it said.

And it says it hopes that instead of age checks on sites themselves, governments will mandate parental controls on phones and laptops.

Pornography review

The IWF will share tools, expertise, and technology on fighting CSAM with companies who sign up to the new voluntary standards.

They require firms to take steps to tackle child abuse including:

  • complying with laws and regulations

  • using AI tools to check the age of those appearing in uploaded content before it is published

  • ensuring that all individuals appearing in content have consented to do so

  • checking content against digital fingerprints of previously identified child abuse imagery

  • verifying that those publishing or appearing in material on the platform are over 18 years-old

Compliance will be assessed by an independent auditor.

Baroness Gabrielle Bertin, who was appointed by the UK government to lead a review of pornography backed the move.

“These are pragmatic and necessary steps. There is potential to make a huge impact for children’s online safety here", she said.

'Marketing tactic'

But campaigners have told the BBC they want to see evidence of concrete action from Aylo.

Elena Michael ,co-founder of Notyourporn, a group fighting the image-based sexual abuse of adults, sex workers and under-18's, broadly welcomed the plan but added: "What I don't want to happen is this to be used as some sort of marketing tactic, or some sort of paper pushing exercise, or a way for companies to say, on the surface, 'look we're doing something', but actually, the substance of it is not there".

Pornhub and the business that owns it has previously faced numerous allegations, and legal action, over claims that it failed to do enough to tackle non-consensual content.

In 2023 its parent company announced it had changed ownership. In the same year it rebranded from Mindgeek to Aylo.

The IWF believes it has improved, and says annual "actionable reports" it has received of CSAM on Aylo owned sites have fallen to zero. It points to Aylo introducing new safeguards and "expanding [its] moderation workforce and processes". The company also uses some technologies provided by the IWF.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, chief executive of the IWF, said the adult industry had billions of users worldwide and as such had a role to play "in making sure the internet is a safe place".

Aylo's David Cooke said he was proud of the work with the IWF.

"We have made significant, ground-breaking advancements in Trust and Safety measures across our platforms, and we aren’t slowing down."

But others were unimpressed - Michael Bowe, a lawyer involved in action against the company on behalf of dozens of women relating to incidents prior to 2023, told the BBC that experience had made him sceptical of its claims about moderation processes: "One more announcement doesn't mean much", he said.