ColumnistsVogue Williams

‘Revenge’ smut sites are operating in our capital

Chrissy Chambers
Chrissy Chambers

Last month Enda Kenny made another one of his noisy statements about the blindingly obvious.

At an event to launch a free helpline for the victims of crime, he called for a national discussion about online pornography and the effect it’s having on Ireland’s young people.

So, Enda, let’s kick-start that discussion with a question.

How are we meant to feel about the fact that your government currently profits from some of the world’s biggest porn sites running offices in Dublin, obviously cashing-in on our generous corporation tax laws?

Sites like RedTube and PornHub, free porn-hosting platforms that generate more than 90 million visits per month. One click and you’re into a world of simulated rape and violent sex, whether you’re nine or 59.

A company – originally called Manwin, now known as Mindgeek – owns these sites. It’s a multi-million dollar international porn giant based in Luxembourg, but with offices in Ireland.

The German founder of the firm, Fabian Thylmann, who sold it to senior management in 2013, has even been called “The King of Porn” by CNN.

I was shocked when I discovered this – and the manner in which I found out actually sickened me.

On Tuesday, my RTE series,Vogue Williams – On The Edge, looks at the varying and horrific ways that women, young and old, are being sexually targeted and abused online.

I met with several women who’ve been subjected to the posting of grossly humiliating revenge porn.

I personally experienced a small part of that abuse when I discovered my own pictures had been stolen and my head had been photoshopped on to porn images on a so-called ‘tribute porn’ site.

The word ‘tribute’ makes it sound like the women whose images are posted should feel honoured to be considered worthy of elevation to the status of ‘masturbation fodder’. Well I didn’t feel honoured, I felt defiled.

‘C*m on Printed Pics’ is the site that stole my images and I know that by naming the business it will drive some people to check it out.

But, here’s why I am naming them. Like all porn hosting sites they make a big play for legitimacy by pretending that they act on abuse complaints.

They want to seem like reputable companies so they offer a link to report abusive images. But when I wrote to them requesting they take the images down, they did nothing. Their ‘right to report abuse’ claims are a sham.

 ‘Tribute sites’ aren’t the most extreme form of sexual harassment on the internet – but they are part of a much larger problem.

Increasingly, we have no proper ownership of our own bodies and images.

In August, I met a gorgeous girl called Chrissy Chambers, whose ex-boyfriend had posted revenge porn videos shot when she was blacked-out, intoxicated.

Because he uploaded the videos in the U.K. and she lived in the U.S., the American police could do nothing.

Furthermore, she discovered that because the footage was shot on his camera, he owned the copyright. So Chrissy didn’t even have the right to approach the porn sites who were hosting the images to take them down.

As part of the documentary I met Chrissy’s lawyer, Ann Olivarius, a human rights campaigner who has acted on behalf of Irish victims of clerical abuse.

Ann decided to take Chrissy on as a test case, to see if she could push for the world’s first civil action against an ex boyfriend for posting revenge porn.

Just two weeks ago, when the show had already finished editing, Ann contacted the production team to say that she was also constructing a civil action against the website that originally hosted Chrissy’s videos.

That site is RedTube and she thought we’d be interested to know that the company that operates and controls RedTube content is called MG Content RT Ltd and is based in Dublin.

As well as RedTube and Pornhub, the company runs XTube, ExtremeTube, JuicyBoys, Webcams, Tranny Surprise, and SpankWire, which generate billions of hits a month.

Sites like RedTube and PornHub operate on the same basis as YouTube – with users uploading their own content. These sites say that they try their best to comply with the law, but they take no legal responsibility for the content uploaded to the sites.

Ann Olivarius is hoping to contest this.

Red Tube currently hosts more than 1,000 girlfriend revenge porn tapes – clip after clip of women being sexually degraded and abused. 

Young people are watching this stuff and it’s messing up their understanding of what a physical relationship should look like.

So, Enda thinks porn is bad for Ireland’s young people? Well, it looks like it’s good for the economy. So what matters more Enda?

Human dignity or profit. Young minds or fiscal balance sheets? I bet I already know the answer.

I’m no expert in Corporate Tax Law, but I am a woman who has seen up-close the damage that online porn can do.

So I say, Enda, stop talking about porn and do something about it.

Put your money where your mouth is and kick these pornographers out of this country.