A class-action lawsuit against MindGeek, the parent of Pornhub, was filed in federal court alleging that the popular adult streaming platform engaged in human trafficking by permitting the posting of non-consensual content. While the allegations outlined in the lawsuit are serious, the claim that Pornhub is nothing but a criminal enterprise that capitalizes on the abuse of minors and women is a gross misinterpretation.

By no means do I diminish the damage done against the victims that allege abuse. However, there is a line that needs to be redrawn to illuminate the difference between a platform knowingly engaging in trafficking and exploitation over a platform that permits unverified third parties to post content. A lot of people in the adult entertainment industry have mixed feelings about Pornhub and other tube websites like XVideos.

While these sites serve as popular avenues for content consumption and promotion, there are still several shortcomings in place that accompany internet platforms in general. From an industry standpoint, websites like Pornhub are breeding grounds for intellectual property violations and content piracy. Unfortunately, the ideological basis behind the lawsuit — and others like it — is dependent on anti-free speech sentiments.

The recent civil action against MindGeek also named payment processor Visa Inc. and other corporate entities and individuals and John Does, alleging violations of federal sex trafficking laws, racketeering, and many other claims. The lawsuit was filed on the behalf of 34 women, represented by controversial attorney Michael Bowe. Bowe was a member of the personal legal team for former President Donald Trump. The complaint is also the latest in a series of lawsuits filed against adult industry companies and web platforms that also allege human and sex trafficking in one form or another. At the heart of the lawsuits, lawyers rely on one-sided claims of rampant abuse and criminal misconduct. A 2020 report by the nonprofit Human Trafficking Institute found mainstream social media websites including Facebook are the real hotbeds of human trafficking. The report does contend that the internet “was the most common location for recruitment (of trafficking victims) as has been the case every year since 2013.”

59 percent of online victim recruitments in active sex trafficking cases occurred on Facebook, making it the most referenced platform connected to prosecutions, notes the HTI report. Also, the lawsuit brought by Bowe is another challenge against the constitutionality of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Since Section 230 is colloquially known as the “First Amendment of the internet,” the claims that Pornhub is complicit as a criminal enterprise for the sharing of third-party content are misleading.

Section 230 provides a comprehensive liability shield for interactive computer platforms like Pornhub and mainstream platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Despite recent public sentiments, courts have overwhelmingly held that platforms are immunized from the conduct of users and third parties who use said platforms to spew hate and abuse through various types of media. Of course, these platforms aren’t exempt from the law of the land. However, they are ultimately encouraged to self-regulate and enforce policies that scrutinize every single user who intends to post and share third-party content on a privately owned platform.

As is the case with a mainstream web platform, companies like MindGeek have policies in place to detect, remove, and report illegal content posted on their website. Even with the latest outrage against porn, Pornhub has clamped down on verification and has revamped its entire safety system. This lawsuit, and many more already filed or are about to be filed, attempts to hold the platform owner accountable for not taking proactive steps towards preventing illegal and harmful content. This simply isn’t the truth and speaks to the lack of willingness to weigh conflicting evidence.

Companies like Pornhub are far from perfect. But, the lawsuit is an unfortunate result of an overly litigious society buying into moral panic after moral panic. It also is true that abuse and trafficking occur in the most horrific ways. This lawsuit, though, isn’t the Clarion call to address the problems of abuse alleged by the complaining class.

The lawsuit threatens free speech and the survival of the adult entertainment industry. We as a society cannot punish an entire group for the terrible actions of a small few. Collective punishment won’t make things better.