The past week has seen some fantastic progress made in the fight against sexual exploitation in the porn industry. Pornhub have announced that they have removed, and will continue to remove, any videos not uploaded by “verified partners” after a New York Times piece exposed the site’s further complicity in rape, abuse, and exploitation, building on previous stories by the Sunday Times and the BBC.

Of course, any direct action taken to stem the tide of exploitative material on the site is a positive, but this isn’t the end of the road by a long stretch. For years, Pornhub, its parent company Mindgeek, and all of the loose collection of tube-style porn sites have acted with effective impunity when it comes to their involvement with illegal content. They have shirked responsibility for any of the content that ends up on the front page, laying the blame instead at the feet of those who upload to the site.

While the uploaders themselves can’t be absolved of responsibility for their involvement in promoting and producing abusive and exploitative content, this is a systemic issue, and not solely one of exploitative individuals capitalising on lax uploading safeguards.

Pornhub has created a culture that promotes objectification, sexual violence, and racist and misogynistic attitudes about and towards women. The very nature of its business model has meant that content is created and proliferated at near-lightspeed, with millions of videos being uploaded every year. This creates a vicious cycle: the attitudes that permeate the videos become entrenched in the mind of the consumer; as the users’ demand for violative content becomes more extreme, the content needs to reflect this and is created accordingly.

This is all despite Pornhub’s “Terms of Service”, which expressly prohibit the posting of:

“…any Content that is obscene , illegal, unlawful, fraudulent, defamatory, libelous, harassing, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive, or encourages conduct that would be considered a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability, violate any law, or is otherwise inappropriate”

Clearly warm words from Pornhub, who have failed to enforce their terms of service for years (until it came under scrutiny from almost the entire world). This is why Pornhub’s “self-regulation” by removing content is only the first step. They simply cannot be trusted to carry out meaningful regulation on their own.

This is why it is imperative that the UK Government recognise that porn sites should be included within “Category 1” as outlined in the recently-published Full Response to the Online Harms White Paper. Category 1 sites are described as:

“A small group of high-risk, high-reach services will be designated as ‘Category 1 services’, and only providers of these services will additionally be required to take action in respect of content or activity on their services which is legal but harmful to adults.

The evidence shows that sites such as Pornhub have profited from illegal and abusive content for many years. They cannot be trusted to self-regulate otherwise the content would not have been permitted to have been uploaded in such vast quantities in the first instance. Therefore, we are calling for the Government to impose a statutory duty of care on Pornhub and its associated sites to enforce compliance where previously there has been none.

Nevertheless, we must push forward and begin to impose a framework on and around the porn industry, to ensure some accountability. As the recent GirlsDoPorn lawsuit has indicated, this can provide real and tangible recourse for victims of this predatory industry.

This is only the beginning, but it should be heartening. Finally, this unchecked industry is being held to account, and while the road ahead may be long, there is an end in sight.