Pornhub's new Ottawa-based owner vows to give performers more of a voice

The Ottawa private equity firm that purchased MindGeek, owner of adult-entertainment website Pornhub, says it hopes to bring the industry into the future through openness and transparency. 

Conversations about industry can't be 'one-sided,' says Solomon Friedman

A photo of Pornhub's website. The thumbnails of videos are blurred.
Ottawa-based private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners is buying MindGeek, the owner of Pornhub and other adult entertainment properties. (Althea Manasan/CBC)

The Ottawa private equity firm that's purchased the owner of adult-entertainment website Pornhub says it hopes to bring the industry into the future by boosting transparency and giving performers and content creators more of a voice.

One of the top-15 most frequented websites by some counts, Pornhub has had its share of controversies, including allegations that parent company Mindgeek shared and profited from videos posted there without consent. 

"The challenges with respect to content is one that faces the internet as a whole," said Solomon Friedman, a lawyer and partner with Ethical Capital Partners, which announced it had secured ownership on Thursday.

Friedman said other large websites are also struggling with how best to monitor uploaded content, and the Ottawa firm was impressed with how credibly MindGeek was addressing the issue.

"What we discovered in our extensive review was just how seriously they take that, and [we were impressed by] the tools which they have built in order to keep that platform safe, to verify the identity of every single uploader to their platform," said Friedman.

"[That's] something that no other platform — adult or otherwise — does." 

No content can be uploaded to Pornhub without being checked by automated tools and real humans, he said.

A lawyer speaks to reporters outside the door of a courthouse.
Solomon Friedman speaks to reporters outside the Ottawa Courthouse in February. The Ottawa defence lawyer and partner with the firm that now owns Pornhub is promising 'public, transparent and visible ownership.' (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Visa and Mastercard stopped allowing their cards to be used on the site in 2020 amid concerns they were facilitating access to sexually exploitative material.

But Friedman said he hopes MindGeek will be a leader in trust and safety, moderation and data privacy beyond the adult-entertainment industry — and that its content-verification tools can be used elsewhere on the internet. 

'Public, transparent and visible ownership'

Friedman said the firm wants to do more to include content creators and sex workers in discussions about the industry and engage regulators and legislators with them directly.

He also said Ethical Capital Partners plans to facilitate conversations with other partners like victim advocacy groups, senior law enforcement officials and non-governmental organizations.

"You cannot have this conversation if it's one-sided," Friedman said. "And this industry is too important. It is too important to the livelihood of many people.

"It's certainly a new step to have public, transparent and visible ownership."

Jenn Clamen, national co-ordinator of the Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform, said the past problems at Pornhub have been used to malign the industry as a whole. 

"What we can only hope is that [Ethical Capital Partners] have a respect for working conditions," Clamen told CBC.

"And that they will [be interested in] developing content with workers and focusing on ethical content and asking workers what that is." 

A woman stands in front of a pole and a large sign that says "Porn."
Porn actress Ginger Banks stands in the Pornhub booth during the 2018 edition of the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo. Ethical Capital Partners, Pornhub's new owner, are vowing to do more to include the voices of sex workers and content creators in discussions about the industry's future. (John Locher/The Associated Press)

Workers face discrimination, financial challenges

Maggie MacDonald, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto's faculty of information who studies porn platforms, was asked to join the firm's advisory board a few months back.

She said it's the first time a private sector pitch convinced her, as Ethical Capital Partners impressed upon her that they have the interests of pornography workers at heart.

"They're financially disenfranchised frequently, they're discriminated against," she said. 

"The most impressive single factor, I would say in [the firm's] early conversations with me, was that they are very interested in engaging and centering the workers, which is something that I had not seen [before]." 


Joseph Tunney is a reporter for CBC News in Ottawa. He can be reached at