MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Monday morning and this is The World and Everything in It. Today is the 3rd of August, 2020.
Good morning to you, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
Are you sitting down? So, Legal Docket podcast. Great job! Big congratulations to you, to Jenny Rough, to Paul Butler. Here’s what I want to say: Your new podcast—which Apple placed into the “Government” category—I looked at “Top Charts” in that category and Legal Docket debuted over the weekend at—drumroll, please, Carl—Legal Docket debuted at No. 2, No. 2 out of all the podcasts in the category.
Now, nobody knows how Apple’s system works, but I have to believe it’s listeners taking the time to rate and review. And so I want to say thanks for doing that, and please keep it up. Please subscribe for free to the Legal Docket podcast feed, tell a friend, and if you love it, please leave a five-star review. That should elevate the visibility of the podcast and in turn attract new listeners to it.
REICHARD: I saw that and may I just say: that first episode is a really fun listen. Hats off to you, my co-host Jenny Rough, Paul Butler, and the whole team. I’m really overwhelmed and a little speechless.
EICHER: Well, we do need you to regain your speech, so I’ll get us rolling here.
Difficult subject matter coming up. It’s not what we like to talk about and yet it’s important. So consider this a warning to press pause and come back later if you have young ones around.
We’ll come back to it in just a moment.
First, some good news in a time of cancel culture. A controversial proposal that would direct judges not to join certain organizations is tabled for now.
The draft advisory opinion drew heavy criticism because it directed judges not to join The Federalist Society, which is conservative, or the American Constitution Society, which is liberal. But many saw it as a ruse to undermine the more conservative organization because it has much more influence.
The Judicial Conference Committee on Codes of Conduct received hundreds of comments about its plan, mostly against it. So judges for now remain free to decide for themselves which organizations to join.
REICHARD: Now on to the story we cautioned you about.
It’s a movement against exploitive pornography online.
The effort began earlier this year with an online petition on Change.org, put there by Laila Mickelwait of the group Exodus Cry. That organization works to abolish sexual exploitation and trafficking. The online petition to “Shut Down Pornhub and Hold its Executives Accountable for Aiding in Trafficking” has drawn more than a million signatures.
EICHER: In March, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse called for a federal investigation into Pornhub for its involvement in trafficking. His letter to Attorney General William Barr points out that Pornhub had 42 billion visits in 2019. That averages out to about 115 million visits a day.
Others began speaking out.
For example, one of the hosts of America’s Got Talent, Terry Crews. Last month, Terry Crews took to Instagram to call out porn sites for their insidious methods. Crews is a professing Christian who acknowledges his past addiction to pornography and the damage it did in his life.
CREWS: Hey, guys, how you doing? This virus and the quarantine has really brought the porn corporations out and they’re giving this stuff away in an attempt to get you hooked. So, let’s talk about it. Some people don’t even think you can be addicted to pornography. So, discuss it. Let’s talk about it. Somebody prove me wrong. Alright?
REICHARD: I called up a lawyer who deals with this subject for a living.
Dani Pinter is senior legal counsel with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center.
As I prepared for this interview, I was appalled to learn that Pornhub aligned itself with Black Lives Matter. It even made a $100,000 donation. I asked Pinter about that.
PINTER: Pornhub is very savvy and has engaged in these public relations, you know, activities in the past. You know, supposed “charitable giving.” But to actually mention that they stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter when so much of their content is so highly, offensively racist, is really disgusting, honestly…
For example, when the George Floyd story first broke and actually continuing for weeks after one of the trending search terms on their site was George Floyd and was suffocation and police-violence themed videos. They also have entire channels that are themed about police violence towards African Americans and slavery themes towards black women.
The site ensnares young people—not only online. It ensnares them in other ways.
PINTER: Yes. So it’s really alarming. But the alarming part of this content coming from from random users is they have no age gating or consent verification for upload. So that means anyone can upload a video with just an email address. That’s all it takes.
You know, Pornhub claims that they have a team of moderators reviewing every single video. And that is alarming for multiple reasons. One, because there’s verified instances of trafficking on their site. There was the 15-year-old girl in Florida who had close to 60 videos of her exploitation on Pornhub. And she was also a verified model, which means they put a blue check mark on her to kind of give their audience a sense that she had been checked out and was an adult and was there of her own volition, when those were both completely false.
Awareness about the pervasiveness of human trafficking has entire industries on alert. Trucking and hotels, for example. Pornhub’s nexus to trafficking is what’s really gaining steam.
PINTER: There’s also been new, breaking news that one of their largest content partners, Check Casting, they have multiple channels—including, it’s called Check Cabins—where they do secret filming of women getting changed, et cetera. They have close to a billion views across all their channels.
Their official partner is Pornhub, and they’ve just been busted for human trafficking in Czech Republic. So this shows that, um, Pornhub is intentionally partnering with traffickers, or at least not doing enough to verify that those people depicted on their site, aren’t minors or victims of trafficking.
I asked Pinter about the laws against pornography, and how our culture changed along the way to accept it.
PINTER: Well, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a cultural change, not a legal change. So, the obscenity laws are still on the books…which prevented the depiction of obscene, sexually explicit content that lacks any artistic, political, scientific value—is illegal. So it’s illegal to distribute obscenity, including over the internet. And that is current on federal books right now. And the problem is the DOJ is just not enforcing those laws.
The Supreme court has ruled on that and upheld obscenity laws, time and time again. They’ve even given, you know, specific examples of what would be obscene and this would be explicit depictions of sex, including violent sex acts. So that is clearly apparent in every video in Pornhub. So there are definitely violating obscenity laws, which the DOJ could be enforcing right now and are choosing not to.
But we also believe that they’re violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by knowingly benefiting from trafficking on their site. Many of these women and children are being trafficked into the pornography industry and at the very least Pornhub’s turning a blind eye to it so they can profit from it.
I ended by asking Pinter what people of good conscience can do to keep the heat on?
PINTER: We need to educate our young people and yet educate each other on the harms and stop consuming it. End that demand. We can also take activism and use our voice on social media by doing things like signing the petition that Laila has circulated.
Or go on to our website and EndSexualExploitation.org and check out our action center where you can petition the DOJ to enforce obscenity laws. We think that that’s an important aspect of this and would prevent so much exploitation and harm that’s occurring today, if those laws were just enforced.
In an email exchange with me, Laila Mickelwait of Exodus Cry wrote that she was able to brief the White House, senators, members of the House and committee members about Pornhub’s complicity in exploitation of women and children.
And that’s this week’s Legal Docket.