Op-Ed: The Pornhub Tapes’ ‘Credibility’

LOS ANGELES—Social media platforms are lighting up with the hashtag #PornhubTapes. This is part of a campaign to circulate a recently released 12-minute-long video depicting a product manager employed by the parent company of Pornhub discussing what he claims is a loophole in the age verification process for users to upload content to the tube site. 

The technical product manager, Mike Farley, said that executives at the company, which recently rebranded as Aylo (from MindGeek), know of the loophole and aren’t doing anything about it.

Journalist Arden Young and an investigative organization called Sound Investigations, a newly-formed nonprofit that accepts tax-deductible financial donations, is responsible for the so-called "Pornhub Tapes." The video depicting Farley is the first one in a series of upcoming releases, Young told her followers on X (formerly Twitter).

“More tapes. More employees. Stay tuned,” reads a text blurb at the end of the video featuring Farley.

Right-wing social media personalities and pundits have circulated the Farley video across various mainstream and alternative social media platforms, including X, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and the video platform Rumble.

We looked into Young's background, and our review shows that she has a clear bias against the adult entertainment industry and has publicly supported campaigns such as the #Traffickinghub campaign started by rabble-rousing lobbyist Laila Mickelwait a few years ago.

This is also a moment of fame for Young, having appeared on several podcasts and talk shows hosted by a veritable who’s who of the post-Trump populist GOP.

AVN on Friday published a response to the Sound Investigations video from Sarah Bain, a partner and the vice president for public engagement at Aylo’s ownership group, Ethical Capital Partners. Bain said that Young’s work is “an attempt to use disingenuous tactics to create a damaging characterization devoid of any fact or truth. 

“The video, which was filmed surreptitiously and never fact-checked, exclusively features an employee with no involvement in the company’s compliance measures, content moderation practices, and development and execution of companywide policies,” Bain added.

Farley’s LinkedIn profile has since been removed, as it was used throughout the video to verify his identity and employment history with Aylo/MindGeek. No indication has been made as to Farley’s current employment status with the company.

Young and Sound Investigations have yet to release the next video (or videos) in their series at the time of this writing.

A review of publicly available materials and information shows that much of the strategy behind the Farley video is emblematic of the right-wing Project Veritas. Previously, Young was employed by Project Veritas but signed a joint letter to the organization’s board back in February of this year calling for the ouster of founder James O’Keefe for “erratic behavior.” 

There is no indication, however, that the Pornhub Tapes is an initiative affiliated with Project Veritas. There is also no indication at this time that Young, Sound Investigations or Mickelwait are affiliated.

But Mickelwait has aggressively pushed the #PornhubTapes hashtag to her followers on X and Instagram. Additionally, she has circulated leaked emails between MindGeek executives, including former CEO Feras Antoon, suggesting the company was aware of a supposed “roadblock” to reviewing flagged material that could be potential sexual abuse content. 

Note that much of the information regarding the email leak Mickelwait has circulated in the past week refers to incidents well before Ethical Capital Partners acquired MindGeek and chose to rebrand the company to Aylo.

The emails, according to Washington Examiner report, date back to 2020, before Nicholas Kristof released his intensely criticized investigative op-ed, “The Children of Pornhub,” for the New York Times in December of that year.

This is important for AVN’s analysis because there is still no indication as to the timeline of when and where Farley was video recorded without his knowledge.

According to Bain’s comments to AVN, Farley never had any significant role in the company besides a product manager role and duties. That information wasn’t made clear by Bain.

In most tech spaces, a technical product manager is engaged with various teams and departments to make the product better. The functions of an individual in this type of position could include quality assurance, user experience management, or, to some degree, dependent on the company and the scope of the product’s development, market research, testing and cross-platform analysis.

Bain added that Farley “is not, nor has he ever been, part of our content moderation team, is not an executive nor a part of the senior management team, does not manage any employees, and is not privy to any of the information he claims to know.”

According to Bain, Farley failed to use the correct names and titles of employees or an accurate company headcount.

And the fact that the claims made in the video haven’t been vetted by independent fact-checkers is telling. This isn’t uncommon in the anti-porn industry’s activism, though.

Consider the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) as an example. NCOSE published a recent statement lauding the work that went into producing the Farley video. Haley McNamara, vice president of communications and strategy for NCOSE, said, via the statement published to the group’s blog, “A Pornhub executive has basically admitted that the company does not care about profiting from videos of women, men, and children who have been raped, assaulted, trafficked, and have had their footage uploaded to Pornhub. This shocking admission should trigger an immediate investigation into Pornhub by the U.S. and Canadian governments.” At the very top of the statement, they blindly reiterate the claim that Pornhub doesn’t verify its content creators.

This is false.

For several years now, Pornhub and other adult entertainment platforms have made it a requirement for content creators and producers to verify and retain age records for everyone who appears in their content. No verification, no uploads. No uploads, no monetization. In the video, Farley depicts this so-called “loophole” that performers aren’t required to show their faces in videos or photos.

Despite having to retain records for compliance with 18 U.S. Code 2257, the requirements to share banking information for ad-share payouts, and the requirement for separate verification for the uploader, Farley makes an assessment that rapists and sex traffickers can exploit this apparent loophole. Taking this as fact without further scrutiny or research into how other adult platforms have similar policies, such as xHamster, OnlyFans, Fansly and more, the NCOSE response lauding the Sound Investigations video is a clear indication of misinformation, disinformation and flat-out lies guiding their beliefs.

But this isn’t surprising.

Organizations like NCOSE and the Traffickinghub movement, and activists like Mickelwait, rely on outdated assessments of online adult platforms and show a clear lack of knowledge of how such platforms work. How can someone effectively campaign against something if they don’t take the time to understand opposing viewpoints and updated information?

Though by sheer speculation, our assumption is that Farley’s remarks came before any of the major corporate leadership changes at Aylo/MindGeek. And he’s either simply reiterating claims that he surmised are correct based on tidbits of information he’s gathered during his work at the company, or he’s purposefully misinforming the journalist speaking to him in the video. 

In regard to the promised upcoming videos from Sound Investigations, we won’t be surprised if they are similarly edited to the first one and lack any indication of independent vetting and fact-checking.

What's for certain is that there is no credibility to the investigation until additional information is provided, which includes one of the most crucial elements missing here: the timeframe.

When was Farley recorded? How many weeks was the journalist undercover? How long did it take for Farley to trust the undercover journalist? Was Farley recorded before or after Ethical Capital Partners acquired MindGeek and its affiliated companies? Was Farley recorded by the undercover journalist before or after MindGeek was rebranded as Aylo?

This information has yet to be prominently disclosed. And, it is no surprise that X has removed the video from its platform and locked Arden Young out of accessing her account.