World's largest porn siteHow XVideos does very little against sexualized violence

„Knocked out and fucked“: On XVideos clips dealing with rape are automatically recommended. Anonymous uploads raise doubts about whether recordings are consensual. Our research reveals how sexualized violence can spread on the platform.

Person hides behind raised hand, black background, red banner reads "content removal"
XVideos says it „continuously monitors“ the platform – but not how it does so. – Foto: Pixabay/ ninocare, Screenshot:, Editing:

Trigger warning: The following article graphically describes cases of sexualized violence.

The shaky video clip shows a motionless woman. A hand enters the frame and lifts the woman’s eyelids, first left, then right. The eyes are fixed. Apparently, the woman does not wake up, although someone is touching her face. Then the camera pans to her breasts. The hand grabs them.

Is this person aware that she is being filmed, that she is on display on the biggest porn platform in the world? Someone left a comment under the video: „I love the fact she looks so lifeless lol“. 121,000 views.

It’s easy to find videos like this one on XVideos, the most visited porn site in the world. To look at naked people here, all you need is an Internet connection. Violence and harassment are officially banned on XVideos – even if they are only staged. XVideos could thus be a place where people consensually live out their sexuality or pursue their profession as porn performers.

But that’s not the case, as research by shows. On XVideos, there are categories such as „against her will“ or „druged and fucked“. Such keywords, so-called tags, can be defined by users when uploading content to the site. When searching, XVideos automatically recommends them as related searches. We asked XVideos about several tags that deal with defenselessness and sexualized violence. XVideos says that there are already 1,704 blocked terms on the platform.

Videos showing apparently unconscious people

In just a few hours, we discovered numerous uploads on XVideos that were apparently made without the consent of those shown. They show people who seem to be not fully conscious but are apparently being abused for sexual acts. Others show subjects who are apparently unaware that they are being filmed, for example on the toilet.

On a platform for sexual fantasies, it’s often hard to tell what’s staged and what’s real. But if any of the above was real, it could be punishable in many countries, for example as sexual assault or rape. In Germany, violating someone’s most personal sphere through image recordings is also punishable, for example when secretly recording in spaces that are protected from view.

In any case, the videos are likely to violate XVideos‘ terms of use. They prohibit non-consensual sexual acts – even if they are only „implied“, „staged“ or „simulated“.

We anonymously reported 30 of these videos to the platform. 25 were deleted or temporarily taken offline within a day, the remaining five after we pointed to them in our press request. How does the platform prevent the spread of abusive content? XVideos remained vague on this: „We have a number of processes that we constantly improve.“

This investigation was financed by donations.

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In general, XVideos answered only a fraction of our detailed list of questions. The answers came from an email address labeled „Xvideos Admin.“ When asked, „Admin“ did not disclose who was behind it. „Try to be nice and don’t trash us even though I’m sure that’s what you want to do,“ the message reads at the end, „because we don’t even reply at all usually…“

This article is part of a series. Here’s the story of how XVideos rose to the top of the world in online pornography. ZDF Magazin Royale, a show of public broadcasting in Germany, covers XVideos in their March 11 show.

XVideos continued to allow anonymous uploads

At the top of the market of online pornography, XVideos is joined by two other giants: xHamster and Pornhub. After reports of sexualized violence and waves of public criticism, both sites drew consequences at the end of 2020. Nowadays users can only upload to xHamster and Pornhub after an ID check. This is meant as a safety measure to prevent people from anonymously distributing recordings of others, intended to humiliate them and exercise power over them.

XVideos continued to allow anonymous uploads. Until the end of 2021, all that was required to upload a video on the website was a free account that could be created with any email address. In January 2022, during our investigation, the anonymous upload suddenly stopped working. Apparently, the function was shut down – quietly and secretly. More on that later.

There are other signs that XVideos is at least trying to do something about the spread of sexualized violence on the platform. Some search terms are blocked – according to XVideos, more than 1,700. For example, searches for „rape“ or „drugged“ return zero results. But this protection is only superficial. Alternative spellings still return results for blocked terms. In some cases, it is even enough to just change one letter.

„Related searches“ lead down the rabbit hole

Users don’t even have to be particularly creative to get around search terms blocked on XVideos. The platform’s automatic search functions help. Type in the first three letters of „drugged“ and you are automatically served a suggestion for a ready-made search query: „druged and fucked.“ In this case, „drugged“ is misspelled, missing a „g“.

Among the more than 500,000 search results, XVideos also suggests around 30 other „related searches“. They read like this:

    „knocked out and fucked“
    „drunked passed“
    „chloro fuck“
    „taken against her will“
    „druged so she can not resiest“

Typing the suggested search query „druged and fucked“ brings up nine alternative suggestions, including „druged tied up and fucked“ and „druged groped and fucked“ – all with the same typo.

Screenshot of XVideos search for term "druged and fucked" displays nine alternative searches
Nine variations of „druged and fucked“, automatically suggested on XVideos. - Screenshot:

In this way, XVideos can lead users deeper down the rabbit hole. The platform automatically suggests tags that can be used to find other depictions of sexualized violence. XVideos tells us that there are countless ways to get around blocked terms.

XVideos allows dozens of tags for sexualized violence

A simple test shows how XVideos even allows tags on the topic of rape: We tried to upload a video ourselves. In the process, we tried out different tags that clearly describe sexualized violence. XVideos informs users during the upload whether a tag is permitted.

For several tags, XVideos displayed the message „Sorry“, this term is „not allowed here“, including the terms „rape“, „revenge porn“ or „chloroform“. This contrasts with dozens of very similar tags where no such warning appeared, including „real rappe“ (with a double „p“), „revengeporn“ (without a space) and „chloro“. Chloroform is a powerful narcotic. These tags are not only allowed – but they are apparently also in use, as corresponding search results on XVideos show.

This inconsistency is not only evident in sexualized violence: for example, the n-word is blocked in the singular, but not in the plural. Due to its history, the n-word is considered as brutal and traumatizing and expresses racist oppression of black people. Searching for it on XVideos returns several hundred results.

Generally, a tag is just a hint from the uploader of what a video might show. In theory, videos can be tagged with arbitrary tags that have nothing to do with the actual content. Many recordings on XVideos also obviously show fantasies, not reality. The performers can be seen in other, apparently consensual videos. The sound, lighting and camera look professional.

It is difficult to tell if some of the shots are consensual fantasies. The shaky clips could be cleverly staged – or they could simply be real. Whether staged or not, such footage is not allowed on XVideos and would have to be removed.

Screenshot of terms of use of XVideos
Terms of use of XVideos: No violence, not even staged. Written documentation to confirm all participants are over 18. - Screenshot:, emphasis:

XVideos responded to our questions about the tags only briefly and referred to a growing list, which currently has 1,704 blocked terms. But there is "a quasi infinity of possible combinations to write differently a word that is banned", the response says. "We can worry about this which can never be solved, or spend our time on what actually matters: the content."

The problem doesn't seem that hard to solve – XVideos could work with a positive list of allowed terms. In this case, users would not be allowed to invent tags but would have to choose from a list. More important than tags, however, is the actual content of XVideos. And here as well we found grave abuse.

Sleeping woman, 1.2 million views selected a sample of 30 recordings on XVideos to report to the platform. There is considerable doubt as to whether they are consensual.

Fifteen of the 30 videos we reported show women who do not appear to be fully conscious. Nevertheless, they are filmed naked or sexual acts are performed on them. This includes the video clip showing the woman with the empty eyes mentioned at the beginning of this article.

  • Another video clip shows a man's hand penetrating a seemingly motionless woman. The camera shakes violently. "This was New Years Eve" the anonymous uploader comments under the video. "My girlfriend was upstairs sleeping, while I was fingering her drunk friend." 368,000 views.
  • In another handheld camera clip, a man can be seen masturbating with the limp hand of an apparently unconscious woman. The video was uploaded two years ago from an anonymous account. 1.2 million views.

For comparison, the most viewed video under the particularly popular tag "amateur" has 270.5 million views.

The second half of the sample of videos we reported falls into the category "voyeur". On porn sites, this refers to recordings that were apparently filmed with a hidden camera – some real, some just for show.

  • In the video of an anonymous uploader, a woman is being upskirted. The shaky high-angle video is upside down. The camera lens is apparently covered by a blurred object. More than 100,000 views.
  • Another video translates as "busty neighbor." The person filming is in a neighboring apartment. A woman is filmed taking a shower with the window open. Only a small section of the bathroom is visible through the window. 61,000 views.
  • A third video shows naked people sunbathing on a busy beach. Apparently the camera is hidden under a towel. Every now and then, something dark slips in front of the lens. 319,000 views.

The same rules apply for all these videos: In order to upload them to the site, everybody depicted would have to have consented to the footage and be of legal age. The person who uploaded the beach video would also have to have documents from all beach visitors proving that they are of age, according to the terms of use.

Five of the reported videos initially remained online

Anyone who – like us – discovers a recording on XVideos and wants to report it, will find an online form for this purpose. XVideos lists examples of such recordings in the form: "Harassment / revenge porn / upload without consent", but also "rape" and "minors". Entering a name and email address is optional. The form can be filled out anonymously. This gives those affected a relatively low-threshold way to report recordings.

On February 23, we anonymously reported the 30 dubious videos. XVideos responded within a few hours. Nine videos were removed directly: including the woman with the blank eyes and the recording of the allegedly drunk girlfriend on New Year's Eve. When the links were looked up again, it said, "Sorry, this video has been deleted."

Sixteen other videos were taken offline temporarily. Instead of the videos, when the links were looked up, it said, "We received a request to have this video deleted. It has been automatically disabled until we hear from the uploader. It will then be deleted or reinstated."

Screenshot of Dispute after a video was reported on XVideos.
Dispute after a video was reported on XVideos. - Screenshot:, pixelation:

In such a case, uploaders are asked to hand over proof in order to unblock their videos. Uploaders will receive an email stating:

"We are questioning whether the individual involved in this and your other content all gave their consent to be published online or not. Please get back to us with information and/or documentation in order to keep this content and account  online. Otherwise it may automatically be deleted after some time and may also be reported to the relevant authorities."

Three of the videos "automatically disabled" in this way were deleted a day later. We asked XVideos what evidence uploaders have to provide in such a case and how the platform verifies it. This was not answered.

While 25 videos were no longer available after our report, five videos remained online for the time being. XVideos provided a reason for this in an automatically sent e-mail. According to this, the platform had already "determined that the uploader is the owner of the content". In the case of the videos in question, however, we did not have the impression that the people shown knew about a camera. The videos included apparently homeless people having sex; women in a group shower and toilet; naked people on the beach; and a woman in a neighboring house changing her clothes, shakily filmed through the window.

pie chart status of uploads we reported on XVideos
13 videos automatically deactivated, 12 deleted, 5 online: status of reported videos after one day. - Chart:

In theory, such recordings can be staged so that they only give the impression of having been filmed with a hidden camera. A few days after our report, we identified ourselves as journalists and confronted XVideos about these issues. After our request, the five remaining videos were also offline: One was deleted, four deactivated.

XVideos: "ridiculous" content limitations

What criteria does XVideos use to delete or deactivate reported videos? XVideos explains that recordings are evaluated differently. As an example, XVideos cited a video we reported. In it, a man used the limp hand of an apparently motionless woman to masturbate. Whether the woman was asleep, unconscious, or just pretending, could only be guessed.

It is "not credible whatsoever" that "a girl doing an actual handjob" was sleeping, XVideos writes. "Yet our reviewers still gave you the benefit of the doubt", said XVideos referring to our content removal request. "We side with potential victims when there is a conflict." Apparently, XVideos would have suspected that the woman was in fact awake.

We wanted to know why XVideos hadn't found and deleted the 30 problematic videos on its own. The question must have struck a nerve. Politics and the press would ignore "millions" of other porn sites that didn't care about anything, said the answer. Gladly, XVideos would remove unverified content – that is, uploads from unverified accounts – but only if every site was treated the same.

"Apparently is it (sic) too much to ask these days that laws should apply to everyone and not just the couple top porn sites", XVideos writes, threatening, "You should be scared of the day when strict upload and age regulations are imposed on us only." Users would then migrate to the other sites, says XVideos, and the situation would become "far worse." Those sites would "happily take all our users, who don't want to be bothered with ridiculous age verification and content limitations."

The response provides a rare insight into how the world's largest porn site sees itself. Apparently, XVideos feels it is being treated unfairly by politics and the media – and when criticized points the finger at others.

Download button clearly visible – "Report" button hidden

In the past, it wasn't as easy as it is today to report recordings on XVideos. An archived version of the form from November 2020 reads quite differently. Back then, anyone who wanted to report a video, for example, had to hand over their name, email, postal address and phone number. They had to explain in legal terms what was prohibited about the video, leave a digital signature and check the box: "I swear under penalty of perjury that the information in this notification is accurate".

It's hard to think of a better way to scare off whistleblowers and those affected. This is precisely what journalists from the Czech newspaper Denik N criticized in January 2021. After that, the form was gradually adapted, as various versions in the Internet archive show.

To this day, the reporting form is not particularly easy to find. One path leads via the start page: Users have to scroll all the way down and click on "Content removal" in a list of links with small font. There is also a "Report" button for each video. However, this is hidden behind a inconspicuous three-dot symbol that has to be clicked separately. For comparison: A button for downloading videos is clearly visible.

Blurred screenshot of video on XVideos showing the buttons under the video
Bottom right: The button for "Download" ("Herunterladen"). The reporting function has been discreetly placed behind three dots. - Screenshot: XVideos; Pixelation:

Design decisions like this one can influence the behavior of users. XVideos could thus drive video downloads up – and push the number of reported videos down. Our query as to whether this is intentional remained unanswered.

Survivor: XVideos had not deleted photos

XVideos responded quickly to the videos we reported. However, we also spoke with a survivor who reported a different experience. They asked to remain anonymous in this article. Photos showing them naked and having sex circulate on countless porn platforms against their will – including XVideos, as they tell us.

Last November, they asked XVideos to delete the photos, referring to copyright law. They showed us an automatic email XVideos sent to confirm the request.

However, XVideos did not react. According to the survivor, the images were only deleted months later when they contacted Serverstack. Serverstack is one of many providers where online companies can rent storage space for their content, and XVideos is a customer there. Three days after the report, Serverstack deleted the images. Serverstack did not answer our questions about the case. XVideos writes, "Mistakes are always possible even though we try to avoid them."

The XVideos account that is said to have uploaded the photos is still online today. Until recently it showed a gallery of more than 70 photos and the note: "various photos, some mine, some from the Internet." After we pointed this out to XVideos via press inquiry, the photos were taken offline.

Verification was initially voluntary

Until the end of 2021, it was extremely easy for users to distribute recordings on XVideos. All they had to do was register with an email address. Then at the turn of the year, during our investigation, XVideos apparently changed the process. On an info page, XVideos still claims that an upload is possible for everyone with an account. In practice, however, XVideos now requires verification, at least in Germany. We observed this with our own test account. This makes uploading non-consensual videos significantly more difficult.

For verification, users must upload a separate video in which they say "XVideos" or show the written word "XVideos", for example on a piece of paper. They do not have to reveal their name or show their face. If XVideos has verified an account, it gets a gray checkmark.

For some accounts, anonymous uploads are apparently still possible. This is suggested by a search for new videos from the last three days. At the beginning of March, the search continues to return new uploads from XVideos accounts without a gray checkmark. Who is still allowed to distribute anonymous recordings on XVideos? XVideos did not answer this question.

The possibility for verification has been available on XVideos for a long time. However, until now it was only mandatory for people who wanted to earn money with their uploads. Uploaders on XVideos can, for example, receive a share of the advertising revenue or put content behind a paywall. "If you are a model looking to build your brand or to make money, you first have to verify," the site said. For everyone else, verification was voluntary.

We asked XVideos why they didn't introduce verification for everyone earlier to prevent the distribution of recordings without consent. After all, xHamster and Pornhub also stopped anonymous uploads long ago. No answer.

XVideos: "cannot and do not manually review every video"

Screenshot of content removal policy
Content removal at XVideos. - Screenshot:, emphasis:

To detect abusive videos, many platforms employ content moderation workers. These are people who sift through new uploads or review reported content. Facebook, TikTok and YouTube employ thousands of them. Pornhub and xHamster, which also have millions of visitors every day, also employ them, according to their own statements.

At XVideos, there is no indication from the outside whether there are any content moderators at all. An information page states that XVideos "continuously monitors" the site. It does not say in what way. Above the report form for abusive videos, it says: "Please understand that (...) we cannot and do not manually review every video that is uploaded to the site." Once the material is reported that violates terms of service or applicable law, XVideos says: "we do our best to quickly remove content".

This sets XVideos apart from Pornhub. In a hearing before a Canadian parliamentary committee in 2021, a high-ranking Pornhub executive claimed that Pornhub hand-checks every upload – and has always done so.

We asked XVideos if and how many people do content moderation for the platform, what criteria they use to sift through videos, how many videos are reported. XVideos would not disclose details about how the platform takes action against abusive content. "It would help whoever is trying to abuse our sites". The info page stating that XVideos could not manually review every video was "outdated."

XVideos doesn't have to act until someone complains

Porn platforms don't have to actively review their videos – they're allowed to wait until someone complains. The procedure is called notice-and-takedown, and apparently XVideos relies on it. The idea behind this is that platforms should generally not be liable for the content of their users. Without this so-called provider privilege, fewer companies would take the risk of operating a platform with user-generated content. There would be significantly more monitoring and hasty deletions, also known as overblocking.

When it comes to content featuring nudity, however, the provider privilege raises problems. Some perpetrators deliberately disseminate recordings of ex-partners and other persons in order to humiliate them. Colloquially, this is called "revenge porn". Some survivors prefer to speak of image-based violence. The perpetrators upload the photos again and again, even after they have been deleted. This can mean a never-ending hunt for survivors. No one can keep track of all porn platforms.

So-called upload filters are used as a possible tool in such a case. They can recognize recordings once they have been captured and block them if someone tries to upload them again. The technology is controversial. In general, upload filters can also be abused for political censorship and can lead to overblocking. Upload filters have long been used to combat the spread of sexualized violence, especially against minors, both by major platforms such as Facebook and YouTube and by porn platforms.

On an info page, XVideos brags about its own upload filter: "XVideos is proud to have been the first site in the adult industry to offer this service." According to the site's own information, this is intended to prevent copyright infringement. Interested parties can upload their videos via a form so that the upload filter recognizes them.

We asked XVideos if they also use upload filters against image-based sexual abuse. "Yes, we do," XVideos writes, but points out technical problems. This means that survivors of image-based sexual abuse cannot rely on the upload filter to recognize their recordings correctly.

USA: Jane Doe sues world's largest porn site

Some of the stories of survivors of such image-based sexual abuse can be read in court documents. In California, lawyers filed a civil class action lawsuit against XVideos and its operators in March 2021. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that a 14-year-old girl was coerced into having sex and being filmed – a criminal offense under U.S. law. For her protection, she is referred to in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe. The videos of this abuse were subsequently shown on XVideos.

It is not clear from the document when the case is said to have occurred. It says the plaintiff is now of legal age. In at least four cases, Jane Doe's lawyers claim to have found videos of the then minors on the platform. In one case, a video is even said to have appeared on an account that was an official "content partner" on XVideos. This means that account operators and XVideos could have made money with it.

The list of accusations is long. According to the lawsuit, XVideos did nothing to verify the age or identity of the people involved and ignored complaints to take down the videos. With tags and search suggestions such as "under 18", XVideos also would have made it easy for its users to find abusive images on the site, including the videos of Jane Doe. Our research shows that tags such as "under 18" or "17yo" are currently no longer allowed on XVideos. XVideos says in response, "We have had various blacklists since forever."

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is behind the lawsuit. The activists generally view sexual services as violent exploitation and want to abolish them, according to their website. In this worldview, platforms like XVideos should not even exist.

XVideos calls the NCOSE "anti-porn extremists." Regarding Jane Doe, XVideos writes that the lawsuit is trying to portray her as an exploitation victim. "Perhaps she was, when she was 14, but this has nothing to do with us."

Image-based sexual abuse as uncharted territory for policymakers

Surviors and experts on image-based sexual abuse have been pointing out the potential abuse of porn platforms for years. But politicians took their time. Angela Merkel's government in Germany has long refrained from having the problem statistically recorded or commissioning studies. A study on digital violence planned by the federal government is not expected to show results until 2025.

The new coalition agreement at least contains a passage on digital violence. This is an umbrella term that also includes image-based sexual abuse on porn platforms. According to the coalition agreement, a "law against digital violence" is to strengthen the rights of survivors and create counseling services. Whether image-based sexual abuse will play a role in this, the Ministry of Justice has left open on request. A spokesperson writes that the implementation is currently being examined.

There is more movement at the EU level. The planned Digital Services Act (DSA) will soon be ready. It contains particularly strict rules for very large platforms with more than 45 million users in the EU. In addition to Facebook and YouTube, the largest porn platforms are also likely to fall into that category. The DSA now even includes a separate paragraph dedicated specifically to porn sites. 

If the Digital Services Act comes into force in this form, XVideos will have a long to-do list: No uploads without an email address and cell phone number. Trained human content moderation workers. Immediate blocking of any reported content. Annual transparency reports on the number of complaints and content removed. If platforms violate the planned Digital Services Act, they could face fines.

Even more far-reaching changes are also envisaged by a proposed directive from the EU Commission. It was presented on March 8 and is intended to combat violence against women. According to the directive, EU countries are to introduce their own laws for image-based sexual abuse. The "non-consensual transmission of intimate or manipulated material" would then be punishable by up to one year in prison. But it may be some time before the proposed directive comes into force.

The porn empire next door

The power of VISA and Mastercard

While politicians are still discussing measures, credit card companies have already come up with their own rules. These companies have a great influence on the online porn industry because porn platforms have an interest in making it as easy as possible for users to pay for premium services. VISA and Mastercard dominate in credit card payments – their power is correspondingly great.

VISA and Mastercard withdrew from Pornhub at the end of 2020. This was preceded by an international wave of outrage over filmed rapes on the platform, fueled by campaigns by conservative porn opponents. To avert the emergency, Pornhub had deleted millions of anonymous uploads and introduced a verification requirement for all uploaders. In vain.

But the credit card companies' action was not only met with applause. Sex workers suddenly had to fear for their income. A Canadian researcher talked to 100 mainly US sex workers about the new Mastercard rules. They reported financial losses. Even consensual videos have been deleted.

screenshot of mastercard policy
New Mastercard rules: Why wait for politics when you can just change your policy? - Screenshot:, emphasis:

XVideos: "weeding out bad actors"

The Pornhub case shows how effectively companies like VISA and Mastercard can regulate other platforms, even though they lack democratic legitimacy. Mastercard's new, official rules read like a hardcore version of proposed EU laws. Porn sites that want to offer Mastercard payments are supposed to document the age and identity of everyone in a recording, process complaints within seven business days – and check all content before it is published.

To what extent these rules will be enforced is another question. Mastercard and VISA still process payments for XVideos. Does XVideos abide by all the rules, but Pornhub does not? We wanted to know from the credit card companies to what extent they check this and whether they consider any consequences for XVideos.

Mastercard says it will contact the bank responsible for XVideos – so apparently they are reviewing the case. A German VISA spokesperson wrote, "We pay close attention to preventing illegal activity on our network." She added that Visa network members are required to verify that standards are being met.

XVideos writes of coming regulations, "If they would just listen to the adult industry a bit, a good system can be developed that would slowly but surely weed out the bad actors". A good system – at least, MEPs around Alexandra Geese (Greens) have made an attempt to that effect. According to Geese, their regulatory proposal for porn sites is intended to strike "a balance between victim protection, prevention and the preservation of fundamental freedoms" – but it is also being criticized for a "real name requirement through the back door." What does XVideos mean by a good system? The porn platform did not answer this question.

Deine Spende für digitale Freiheitsrechte

Wir berichten über aktuelle netzpolitische Entwicklungen, decken Skandale auf und stoßen Debatten an. Dabei sind wir vollkommen unabhängig. Denn unser Kampf für digitale Freiheitsrechte finanziert sich zu fast 100 Prozent aus den Spenden unserer Leser:innen.

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