The Federal Bureau of Investigation has officially launched a $15 million fraud investigation into one of the world’s largest websites hosting pornography.
In a letter sent to the owners of Pornhub, the FBI outlined what it believes to be a “pattern of fraud,” claiming that users are “likely to have engaged in illegal conduct.”
“The websites you have hosted are a major and growing source of revenue for your operators,” the FBI’s letter states.
“Your operators, who are operating within your borders, may have committed acts of copyright infringement or otherwise violated the law, and you may have been complicit in their conduct.”
Pornhub is an American-based search engine and hosting site, which allows users to upload and download pornographic images, videos, and other content.
The site has more than 2 million users worldwide.
The letter from the FBI also alleges that users of PornHub were “using their own personal information to generate advertising revenue” for the site.
It goes on to state that, while the site is owned by a foreign government, “the operators may have engaged, or are engaged, in unlawful conduct that may violate U.S. copyright law.”
“We are not aware of any other U.K. website that has been subject to similar criminal action,” the letter states, “nor are we aware of a U.N. investigation into similar claims.”
According to the FBI, the company “took advantage of a loophole in the law” to allow its operators to generate “millions of dollars” of advertising revenue.
“These operators may also have engaged or are engaging in unlawful activity that may contravene copyright laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and related laws,” the agency states.
The FBI also notes that Pornhub “failed to disclose any of its network-wide activities” to the authorities, even though the site itself has a “robust security system that is designed to protect user information.”
The FBI’s announcement comes just a day after the UK’s Information Commissioner announced that PornHub has been placed under the “protection of the Home Office for investigation” after a Freedom of Information request by the Independent.
The website is currently being probed over claims that it “hosted child pornography.”
The Independent reported that the company is currently seeking details of “every single visitor who viewed child pornography” on the site, including how long the porn was viewed and how much money they made from it.
The government’s response to the request is expected in the coming weeks.
PornHub’s director of communications told Ars that the site was “aware” of the FBI letter and has “been working with the authorities” to determine “how we can best protect our users’ privacy and our customers’ data.”
The site has reportedly had over 2 million visitors in the last two weeks.