Pornhub bans Chinese word for ‘rape’ after online campaign on Weibo

Society & Culture

Adult entertainment site Pornhub, which is blocked in China, has implemented a ban on the Chinese words for “rape” (强奸 qiángjiān), “gang rape” (轮奸 lúnjiān), and “drug-facilitated rape” (迷奸 míjiān). The move came in response to an online campaign on Weibo that accused the website of allowing videos of rape and sexual abuse to be uploaded and making the content easily accessible to Chinese-speaking users.

Adult entertainment site Pornhub, which is blocked in China, has implemented a ban on the Chinese words for “rape” (强奸 qiángjiān), “gang rape” (轮奸 lúnjiān), and “drug-facilitated rape” (迷奸 míjiān). The move came in response to an online campaign on Weibo that accused the website of allowing videos of rape and sexual abuse to be uploaded and making the content easily accessible to Chinese-speaking users.

The initiative was created by Weibo user @Cannotanswer, who called out Pornhub’s unethical business practices in an article (in Chinese) shared on Weibo on March 25. As she pointed out, the English version of the website censors search queries related to rape, but the same rule did not apply to the Chinese version of it. In addition, the author criticized Pornhub for doing an inadequate job policing Chinese-language comments that were advertising rape drugs.

The article reads, “Raping is definitely, undoubtedly a serious crime in most modern countries. Those people who made those videos are criminals.”

“Rapists are rapists, no matter what language they speak or what country they belong to.”

Citing a string of examples that feature words like “rape” and “little girl” in their descriptions, the Weibo user encouraged readers to lodge complaints on the platform and to email a petition letter that she drafted to the website’s owners.

Within a few hours, the post racked up more than 2,000 likes and a stream of comments in support of the initiative. “I’ve messaged them both on Instagram and through email. I saw news articles regarding this issue before, but I didn’t know how to speak up. Thank you for doing this,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).

A large number of people also took action as the petition suggested. Later that day, @Cannotanswer shared a screenshot of an email reply from a Pornhub employee, who said that their inbox had been flooded with petition letters and vowed to address the problem.

The next day, Pornhub replied to the campaigner saying that it had blocked the terms. “Thank you for bringing them to our attention,” the email reads.

However, despite Pornhub’s quick action, the Chinese internet is still loaded with non-consensual pornography that features violence and — in some extreme cases — heinous crimes such as sex trafficking and child rape. In fact, a big portion of the rape-related Chinese content discovered on Pornhub was originally uploaded to Chinese pornography-streaming sites, which operate illegally as the government strictly bans all types of pornographic content on the internet. To make things worse, most of them have no effective system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the videos they host.

Commenting on the subject, a Weibo user lamented (in Chinese), “It’s impressive that a foreign site blocked in China acted this quickly to our requests, but we would probably be censored if we launched another campaign targeting Chinese websites.”