Porn Companies Tell Us Why the End of Net Neutrality Will Make Porn Boring

Pornhub, xHamster, Kink, Redtube, and ManyVids voice their concerns.

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Jun 22 2017, 3:30pm

The fight for net neutrality, the basic principle that all data on the internet should be treated equally, isn't important only because it ensures users are able to stream the latest episode of Game of Thrones via HBO GO just as easily as they can watch the latest Pewdiepie video on YouTube. For companies on the fringe of mainstream media, like the adult entertainment industry, the end of an open internet could have dire consequences for their businesses and free speech.

"Without [net neutrality], the cable and wireless companies that control internet access will have unfair power to pick winners and losers in the market," Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, told Motherboard last week, when Pornhub announced it will join over 60 companies in staging a day of action ahead of the first deadline for comments on the FCC's proposal to roll back net neutrality protections.

Other adult entertainment sites like Kink.com, ManyVids, and xHamster (the third largest porn site), have announced their support, so we got in touch to find out why net neutrality was important to the online porn business in particular.

When you slow sections of the internet, you're telling people that some ideas and sexualities and identities are second-class, and you bring that shame back. The internet becomes The Big Vanilla."

"Fifteen years ago, it was really difficult to find quality fetish content," Mike Stabile, a spokesperson for the fetish-oriented website Kink.com, said in a written statement. "We were severely restricted by distributors, by billing companies, and by limitations in internet speeds. The quickening of the internet has meant that many more people have access, and can reach our content, and thus stop feeling loneliness and shame. When you slow sections of the internet, you're telling people that some ideas and sexualities and identities are second-class, and you bring that shame back. The internet becomes The Big Vanilla."

Stabile said that even as the largest producer of BDSM entertainment in the world, Kink doesn't have the revenue to compete with companies like YouTube and Netflix for bandwidth, and that he doubts internet service providers, or ISPs will prioritize traffic from Kink.com. This doesn't mean that adult content will be limited entirely by losing net neutrality, only that it would shift away from video to photos and GIFs.

Alex Hawkins, a spokesperson for xHamster, said that as a user upload-driven company, where most of its content is from regular people posting their own sexual experiences, throttling internet speeds would have a "devastating effect" on users who are trying to upload as a way to connect with others.

"As an international company, we see every day how restrictive governments use regulatory tools, like traffic throttling, to limit access to not only porn but political speech," Hawkins told me. "What people sometimes miss, especially in the United States and Western Europe, is that sexual speech is political speech. The same governments that severely restrict adult content are also the ones that limit sexual expression, LGBTQ rights, women's rights and access to different ideas.

"Even in the US," he added, "the same politicians who fight against adult content are the ones advocating for a limited, heteronormative version of sexuality. We make them nervous."

Hawkins said that xHamster has millions of users in places like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, where adult content is almost entirely banned. Where there's a will, porn finds a way, but for every person who finds a workaround, thousands more don't.

"Net neutrality is the first step in making the US market align with more conservative regimes across the world, not just in terms of porn, but in ideas about sexuality," Hawkins said.

At adult clip site ManyVids, CEO Sed Dehan and CTO Anthony Moretti say it's a matter of enabling content creators to become successful, and giving them the freedom to push boundaries and break taboos. Rolling back net neutrality protections, per the FCC's proposal, would that user empowerment, and put the wide range of fetishes and tastes in the hands of service providers to decide what is and is not worthy.

"People who pursue strange fetishes already feel that they must hide it, and that it's out of the norm," Dehan and Moretti said in a joint statement. "We want to create a space that welcomes those individuals and make them understand that they aren't alone. That there are others who celebrate that with them."

But that would be harder for online porn companies like ManyVids to do should all data not be treated equally on the internet, Dehan and Moretti added. "The adult industry would become very vanilla and boring without net neutrality."

Update: This story has been updated to note the size of xHamster relative to PornHub.