Pornhub owner MindGeek bought by Canadian private equity firm

Sale of adult site comes after controversy over hosting of child abuse material and other non-consenual content.

The operator of Pornhub, the controversial but wildly popular adult website, has been sold to a Canadian private equity firm.

Ottawa-based Ethical Capital Partners (ECP) said on Thursday it had bought MindGeek, the company that owns Pornhub and several other pornographic websites.

The terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed.

ECP chair Rocco Meliambro said the equity firm was focused on identifying properties with the potential to “create attractive returns over a compelling time horizon”.

“We believe the adult entertainment industry is being influenced by evolving public views and regulatory approaches, and the time is appropriate for evolving this business,” Meliambro said in a statement.

Pornhub, one of the most visited sites on the planet, has attracted controversy in recent years amid claims its owners have profited off child sex abuse material, rape videos, revenge porn and other non-consensual content.

Mastercard and Visa stopped processing payments for Pornhub in 2020 after a New York Times op-ed described the site as being “infested with rape videos”, a move welcomed by anti-pornography advocates but criticised by adult performers.

MindGeek, which was founded in Montreal but is now based in Luxembourg, has been the subject of several lawsuits from women who accused the company of knowingly hosting sexual content involving them without their consent.

In 2021, MindGeek settled a lawsuit in California brought by 50 women who alleged they had been victimised by the site.

MindGeek has said that it has a zero-tolerance stance towards non-consensual content and is vulnerable to bad actors uploading content just like other online platforms. The company has introduced several measures to address the proliferation of illegal content, including verification for users who upload material to the site.

MindGeek’s chief executive and chief operating officer stepped down last year, while remaining shareholders of the company.

ECP founding partner Sarah Bain said she was confident MindGeek operates “with trust and safety at the forefront of everything they do”.

“We will be engaging with stakeholders, including content creators, governments and industry to address the misalignment between how MindGeek operates and what the public perceives about this industry and these platforms,” Bain said.

“We will work with the team to ensure their commitment to trust and safety is communicated clearly with all stakeholders and the public.”

A documentary about Pornhub, Money Shot: The Pornhub Story, debuted this week on Netflix, reviving debate about the website and the regulation of sexual content online.

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