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Why do porn sites have social media sharing buttons?

Why do porn sites have social media sharing buttons?

Tracy Moore

Tracy is a staff writer for Mel Magazine.


Watching porn online can be a lot of things: a thrill, a habit, a source of shame. And yet, in spite of how sexually progressive one might be, it’s also, for most people, immensely private. Many would sooner post their bank account routing number than post a link on social about the last porn scene they watched (“Son catches hot mom masturbating”). In fact, accidental sharing is routinely listed among porn users’ top social media fears.

For some reason, though, porn sites such as PornHub and RedTube have still installed social media sharing options underneath every video—for Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Google Plus, StumbleUpon and Blogger. Nevermind that many of those sites (apart from Reddit, which, for better or worse, is known for its permissive content policy), generally frown upon or outright forbid sexually explicit content.

So why promote sharing of porn to places that don’t want to host it, to people who don’t want to reveal their weirdo porn habits?

I’m not the only one asking these questions. The first inquiry pops up in April 2013 on the IGN message board: “Why the hell do porn sites have a ‘share’ button under the video?” someone asks, and sums up the main issues at play here:

Who the fuck is gonna click that?
 
Nobody sits there and thinks “Oh chit that guy is fucking the dog chit out of her, I should tell all my friends and family.”
 
What happens if you click it on accident?

brb deep anal fisting on your facebook. Biggest fear is that it is somehow connected to my facebook account.

The responses from users were all jokes (“It’s so you can accidentally email your boss porn and get an unexpected promotion!”) and general tips about making sure you’re not logged into any social first.

Then, two months later, the question shows up again on Reddit, but this time the theories were more plausible: “Because while it would be immensely embarrassing for you, it’d still be great advertisement for them,” one commenter says. “Realistically, nearly every blog standard CMS framework comes with them on out of the box these days,” another argues. “Most sites probably just don’t turn them off.”

One user suggests that it’s probably there for people who post porn on Tumblr or Reddit — which makes sense, as they are places for embedding images and videos that offer greater anonymity. (Of course, Twitter users can be anonymous, too.) Tumblr has notoriously confusing policies about porn—adult content is okay, but too much requires flagging, and videos can’t be uploaded but can be embedded if hosted elsewhere—and the restrictiveness has only ratcheted up since Yahoo! bought it in 2013.

Yet nearly half the users on Tumblr see porn there, according to a study from 2016. The breakdown of who and how is interesting, though: Despite the fact that only 0.1 percent of the users are actually generating that content, it has a wide reach. Another 22 percent of users follow those accounts and/or reblog them. And as a result, another 28.5 percent will see that porn unintentionally by following those people.

It’s hard to get a clear sense of how much porn is circulating on Twitter at any given moment, though it’s said to take in some 500,000 pornographic images a day, with one 2015 study claiming 1 in every 1,000 tweets is explicit. That same year, some 10 million porn bot accounts were set to be deleted, and algorithms refigured, as part of a big Twitter-wide porn purge.

Facebook doesn’t allow porn either, but their ability to remove it quickly— whether traditional or revenge — is an imperfect system, as they deal with millions of pieces of flagged content weekly. And in spite of a ban on sexually explicit content on Instagram, “Instaporn” abounds (if you know how to look for it). Even though the current share options on PornHub and RedTube don’t include Facebook, the slew of Reddit inquiries into why Facebook sharing was even an option (mostly from about two years ago) suggests it once was and has been presumably removed since.

The share options make the most sense, then, for Tumblr, but more importantly, Reddit. CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman might have banned illegal sexual content, sexual content with minors and content that encourages or incites violence (like the former subreddit /r/raping women) in 2015, but it’s still generally considered a porn utopia free-for-all. NSFW content need only be flagged. And as with most social media, their enforcement of those policies is equally inconsistent.

All this encouragement to share may mean that in order to cater to these sites, PornHub, RedTube and the like are fine with sacrificing the inadvertent sharing by users (oof) to keep the content promotion going.

Or as Garion Hall, who says he’s run amateur porn site Abby Winters since 2000, explained on Quora 18 months ago:

Pornographers know what all site operators know: Google ranks pages higher that are shared on social media.

Most porn sites will have social media accounts and post “tame” images, but the “network effect” we’re all hoping for happens when other people share links.

We have the array of social media share links on our site, but they are used rarely. But if someone does want to share, we’re ready!

Sure thing.

It’s hard to tell how many users this specific gaffe may have happened to. When you click share on PornHub or RedTube, you still have to confirm a separate window for Twitter or Google Plus to seal the deal. As such, the most famous examples of inadvertent porn sharing are URL copy-and-paste errors, like when Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo accidentally tweeted out a lesbian porn link. There’s also the recent tweet of journalist Kurt Eichenwald, who tweeted a photo that showed his browser in the background, revealing an open hentai porn tab, a callback to when Republican Congressional candidate Mike Webb from Virginia allowed a screenshot to circulate of his web browser that included some porn tabs mixed in.

A PornHub spokesperson told me a few months ago that they had no statistics on who shares their content via social media or how many people do. That seems difficult to believe given their enthusiasm for data splicing everything on the site about their users’ habits down to the number of comments they’ve received on videos over the last 10 years (6.9 million). (They also didn’t respond to questions about why they opted to offer to share in the first place.)

It also seems hard to believe given that this year, PornHub’s April Fools’ prank was a fake alert to users that they had activated automatic video-sharing to all social media.

Not surprisingly, users weren’t that into it.

While we can only speculate why these sites want us to expose ourselves on social media, the irony here is that for PornHub, clearly, their data on social media sharing is, much like most people’s porn use, deeply personal and private.


This article was originally published on The Next Web.

Featured Image Courtesy: Visual Hunt

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