The industry is built on the principle that the customer always comes first. Nothing and no one matters more than what the customer wants. This predictably leads to horrible damage to those who produce porn, and to the people who are their product. But there is also damage done to consumers who are offered their little holiday in a world of wish fulfilment. Some will want to emigrate there.
Documents seen by the Guardian, which form part of the Facebook Files, show for the first time the detailed rules applied by the company to police sexual content published on the site – as well as the scale of the challenge faced by moderators tasked with keeping Facebook clean.
In his 2008 book, Click, online behaviour expert Bill Tancer declared that social media was overtaking pornography as the most popular destination on the internet. Those aged 18 to 24 in particular were replacing pornography use with more stimulating social networking pastimes. After the porn frenzy that was the first decade of the internet’s life, users seemed to be finding more “sociable” ways to occupy their time.
Five years later and social media seems to be firmly ahead of pornography in the race for internet dominance – social networking sites make up four out of 10 of the world’s most visited sites. Research from Pew’s internet project suggests that 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the US use social networking and 71% of online adults are on Facebook.
But it’s safe to say that pornography still remains popular. It’s notoriously difficult to come by reliable statistics on porn use or the porn industry, but Pornhub – one of the biggest online providers – claims to have had more than 14.7bn visits in 2013, with more than 1.68m visits an hour.
However, the line between porn and social media is beginning to blur. From Fuckbook (a porn version of Facebook) to Pornostagram (a porn version of Instagram), to PornTube (a porn version of YouTube), online pornography websites are increasingly starting to behave like social networks – encouraging users to share, like, rate, comment, curate and even create content.
Traditional social media sites have always struggled with the “pornography problem” – the peculiar fact that whenever a means for people to share things online is created, people will start sharing explicit material. It only took four days after Twitter launched Vine for a pornographic video to creep to the top of its “Editor’s Picks” list.