CEO and COO of Pornhub parent company MindGeek abruptly resign

The CEO and COO of MindGeek, the parent company of porn streaming giant Pornhub and others like it, have abruptly and unceremoniously resigned. The company says the departures were planned, but a report on the company’s moderation policies in the New Yorker last week gives them the air of leaving the scene of an accident.

Variety first reported the news, which MindGeek confirmed to TechCrunch.

CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo are gone effective immediately, though they remain shareholders. According to a MindGeek statement, “With the company strategically positioned for long-term growth, MindGeek’s executive leadership team will run day-to-day operations on an interim basis, with a search underway for replacements.”

That the company may have been pondering a change in leadership is understandable; the last few years have been challenging for the adult film world, in which MindGeek is an incredibly powerful player — powerful enough that many in the industry are resigned to working around its sometimes controversial choices on content and payments.

Money is also an issue — not that the porn industry lacks for it but that payments have grown increasingly difficult. MasterCard and Visa both suspended payments to MindGeek companies back in 2020, though Visa relented somewhat. The precarity of the company’s position made it resort to recommending payment via cryptocurrency, but as we have seen that is not quite as easy as its proponents have made it out to be.

The most recent bad PR around the company, however, has to be the New Yorker piece, which described various situations where Pornhub’s moderation processes have failed over the years, with people trying and failing to get imagery of themselves off the platform. Some in the adult film and sex industries, however, have accused the author of buying a religious anti-porn crusader’s spiel hook, line and sinker.

MindGeek called the report a “gross mischaracterization” and pointed out in a separate statement:

NCMEC reported earlier this year that Pornhub reported fewer incidents of CSAM and removed cases of CSAM in the shortest amount of time after being notified among all major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more.

Regardless of what one thinks of the New Yorker article, it’s tough to have a few thousand words in a respected and popular periodical taking dead aim at your company — which is why some may find it tough to believe that there is “absolutely no correlation between any other reporting and today’s news.”

It’s true that MindGeek and Pornhub (as well as other adult video sites and services, not to mention social media) have had no end of trouble corralling illegal or policy-violating content, but efforts are certainly being made to address that. Whether those efforts are sufficient is another question, and usually one we can only answer in retrospect when companies implode, are investigated or by some other means their internal methods and metrics are leaked. (If Facebook and others never had to raise their right hand and tell the truth to Congress or the Justice Department, we might never have known what we do now.)

The CEO and COO leaving immediately with no succession plan after a bout of bad press — it certainly could just be unfortunate timing and a freewheeling corporate nature, but it will be hard to make that narrative stick.