Laila Mickelwait is a woman with a purpose. She is determined, relentless, prepared, and diligent with her goals. She is someone who doesn’t just think, she acts and executes. The most incredible part is this drive and work ethic isn’t for her personal gain – it’s for the gain of tens of thousands without a voice and ability to get it done themselves.

*Warning sensitive material*

Laila Mickelwait

Mickelwait has made it her life’s mission to fight against sex trafficking and the exploitation of women and young girls. One of the obstacles standing in the way of a path to justice is the Internet’s largest pornography source – Pornhub.

Currently, the website is as popular as ever, even leveraging the Corona Virus in their advertisements. They have become a fixture in the mainstream getting coverage by Conan O’Brien and mentions from people like Joe Rogan. There was even a massive billboard for the site at Times Square in New York City.

“They are just everywhere,” she said.

Pornhub, however, has some very problematic elements to its site that you can say are “hidden in plain sight.”

“Pornhub is perhaps the largest collection of sexual violence evidence in existence and that is what’s keeping me up at night.”

“It’s normalized in mainstream culture and if you peel a few layers you can see there is this huge dark underbelly to the company,” explained Mickelwait. “When people realize that and start connecting the dots, they are shocked and horrified. I have gotten quite a number of messages from men saying, ‘I’ve wanted to quit for one reason or another, and sometimes I’ve gone back but knowing there is exploited children and women behind the camera has given me the motivation to really quit.”

Laila along with Exodus Cry and a number of other groups have made it a goal to bring awareness to sexual exploitation that is occurring on the Internet’s largest porn provider. They are fully aware that there of hundreds of thousands of other sites, but when you start with the biggest, it trickles down from there.   

“Pornhub is the largest and needs to be an example,” she stated. “Piggybacking on this we’d like to see enacted with blanket regulations over the other tube sites – specifically sites that have user-generated content that requires an independent third party age and consent and verification for every single person in a video that goes up on the websites. That’s just common sense and that would overhaul the entire distribution of porn on the Internet and it would make huge strides in protecting children and those who are trafficked and non-consenting.”

In her research, she found that anybody going into Pornhub with an objective lens, not looking at pleasure, but going in as an investigator with a critical eye to see what is going on. Laila uncovered that you can upload content to Pornhub with just an email address and anonymously. Furthermore, you can get verified with a blue check on Pornhub with just a piece of paper with a user name and a picture. They require no government-issued ID to prove age or any consent form.

“That’s what’s happening,” she stated. “A 15-year-old from Florida who was missing for a year was found on 58 videos on the website being raped and abused and she was a verified member of Pornhub. Not only that, but she was also part of their Modelhub program. It’s one where they directly sell content and split the profits with Pornhub. In that way, she was being directly trafficked by Pornhub.”

She’s one of many, unfortunately. Another story tells of a 14-year-old who’s classmates found her rape videos. Mickelwait revealed that there were at least 118 cases in the UK where half of them were found to be “Category A” abuse which is the worst kind of abuse of children.

Any predator could take a child or unwilling woman, make them pose for a “consent” picture, and then get them verified on the site to begin making porn. .

A lawsuit of $13 million was won in San Diego against Girls Do Porn. 22 women were found to have been trafficked on the site. There was a federal indictment and the ring leader fled the country. Read about some of those shocking details here. Essentially, these women were coerced into having sex on camera with promises made and money exchanged. Those videos were then seen by millions.

“That was on Porn Hub for eight years. They have over 600 million views and over 800,000 subscribers and that was a challenge,” said the sex trafficking activist. “They didn’t even take it down until after the trial, it was after the trial ended. And you can still find those videos on Pornhub today.”

There are many spectrums of exploitation readily available on Pornhub and sites just like it. Content ranges from child rape to voyeurism porn with hidden cameras in women’s toilets or changing rooms. There is also a large amount of revenge porn – explicit and intimate moments leaked by ex-boyfriends or husbands to get back at their former significant other.

Going back to what Laila said about regulations for porn, “If every single person in every single video had to have a third party age and consent verification that regulation would do a great amount of good for all the other sites.”

Another important thing to note, men and boys are being exploited too. Mickelwait admitted that she was missing examples of this but has recently been getting tips from gay men. They have told her that videos feature young boys. She hasn’t researched it yet but is “100% sure” it’s happening too and will.

On February 9th Mickelwait got the ball rolling with an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. In it she described some of the research she had found concerning Pornhub.

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One of the most-searched terms on Pornhub is “teen” pornography. The search will result in videos that are constantly being added faster than any individual could watch them. Many feature girls who look 13 years old at best — girls with braces, pigtails, flat chests, no makeup, extremely young faces, holding teddy bears and licking lollipops, all while being aggressively penetrated. A quick search for the word “teen” turns up titles such as “Young Girl Tricked,” “Innocent Brace Faced Tiny Teen F—ed,” “Tiny Petite Thai Teen,” “Teen Little Girl First Time,” on and on ad infinitum.

One day later, Laila launched a change.org petition called, “Shut Down Pornhub and Hold Its Executives Accountable for Aiding Trafficking.” In five weeks the petition was signed by over 500,000 people. Now, at the time of this writing, it’s just under 900,000.

Over 200 articles in the media and 32 different countries have covered this petition and story. There is government beginning to take action in different sectors as well.

The Exodus Cry director said that members of parliament in Canada called to open an investigation. The investigators will be looking at all of this information. In the U.S. there are Democrats and Republicans calling on the DOJ (Department of Justice) to open an investigation.

“There could be Civil action,” she revealed. “There are a number of attorneys interested in Civil lawsuits. There’s also criminal time through the Department of Justice, and the State Attorney General is looking into it. The petition is a tool that brings the media coverage, it’s also brought awareness for victims to be coming forward. It’s all feeding each other to produce a positive outcome.”

This petition is leading to huge implications for the online porn giant as they have refuted and downplayed the allegations against them the whole way.

According to the Daily Dot:

Pornhub has a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content on the internet, including non-consensual content and child sexual abuse material. Any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate. While the wider tech community must continue to develop new methods to rid the internet of this horrific content, Pornhub is actively working to put in place state-of-the-art, comprehensive safeguards on its platform to combat this material.

These actions include a robust system for flagging, reviewing and removing all illegal material, employing an extensive team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing all uploads to the site, and using a variety of digital fingerprinting solutions. These include but are not limited to Microsoft’s PhotoDNA, a technology that aids in finding and removing known images of child exploitation, as well as Vobile, a state-of-the-art fingerprinting software that scans any new uploads for potential matches to unauthorized materials to protect against any banned video being re-uploaded to the platform. We are actively working on expanding our safety measures and adding new features and products to our platform to this end, as they become available. Furthermore, Pornhub will continue to work with law enforcement efforts and child protection non-profits in the goal of eliminating any and all illegal content across the internet.

Laila Mickelwait and those who are now fighting the fight with her are still finding and screenshotting pictures, videos, and comments of abused underage children daily. More and more women are coming forward as survivors and victims with their videos still circulating on the site years later. So while Pornhub’s statement seems like they have it under control, the system is broken and indicates otherwise.

In addition to this, Laila has found herself at the center of some smear campaigns from Pornhub and its supporters but it’s hard to dispute her motive when the evidence is a few clicks away on the website. 

Regardless of the “enemies” she is making through campaigning for accountability in porn, Mickelwait is steadfast in that she has dedicated her life to this.

She along with Exodus Cry have been working on this issue for over 10 years. In college, she gravitated toward issues of human rights. Her father was interested in it and brought these issues to her attention growing up. In college, Laila knew she wanted to focus on that whether it was homelessness or poverty. While there, her eyes were opened to human trafficking.

“It really gripped me specifically the sex trafficking part more than anything else,” she said. “I dove into the research and kept myself on that track. Finally, I got some jobs with organizations working on this. I then worked with the UN in Geneva. Then ended up with Exodus Cry.”

She continued, “When you’re focused on sex trafficking and look at the sex industry and how this is happening…You begin to look at issues and I started to focus on pornography and the relationship with sex trafficking. When you’re researching this, you’re going to end up on Pornhub because it is the largest site for pornography in the world.”

Although she has rewritten it many times, Mickelwait has spent the last eight years writing a book on her studies.

“I’ve pretty much read every single book that’s been written about pornography since 1980 – government reports, peer review studies – spoke with people in the industry: directors, producers, actors, actresses, survivors, victims – all of it.”

She also works in tandem with Exodus Cry and New Reality International. Exodus Cry is committed to abolishing sex trafficking and breaking the cycle of commercial sexual exploitation while assisting and empowering its victims. This current campaign against Pornhub is supported by over 100 different child protection services and anti-trafficking organizations of all different perspectives.

Laila is encouraged by the progress and keeps pressing on because of the amazing women that have come forward to share their stories.

“It’s not just one [story], it’s so many – almost daily getting contacted by victims,” she shared. “Videos of assault or videos from being trafficked and then used as masturbation material with profit and the trauma that it does to victims is unfathomable and a whole level of trauma we don’t fully understand yet.”

Her frequent talks and engagement with these strong women keep her from being desensitized and numb to the realities that are happening all the time.

“At the same time, it’s very empowering to know that I’m not helpless in the face of injustice, that there are actually things that I can do, that we can do, to stop this from happening. It’s encouraging to see the way that people are mobilizing around the world to take a stand against this giant predator and call for justice to be done…It’s very exciting and encouraging to see that we’re actually going to be able to help victims find justice.”

Laila has seen many take up the cause as well. There is power in men taking a stand for vulnerable women and exploited children. She said men have told her they are unable to view pornography anymore after hearing these stories and she believes there will be a reduction of this kind of explicit content because of it.

“What I brought up is Pornhub is set up for exploitation. It incentivizes exploitation, and it rewards exploitation. It profits from exploitation, and it enables it as well.”

To add your signature to the petition, click here. To support, donate, and keep track of updates visit traffickinghub.com.

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