In the heat of a culture war over online access to sexually explicit content, Mindgeek, which owns Pornhub, was acquired Thursday by private equity firm Ethical Capital Partners.

Pornhub is one of the largest adult entertainment websites on the internet and has faced intense scrutiny for hosting videos depicting child sexual abuse. After a New York Times opinion piece criticized the platform, Visa and Mastercard suspended site services. Pornhub removed all unverified content and changed who it allowed to upload to the site, but it continued to fight to shake off its critics.

Despite the controversy surrounding Pornhub, Ethical Capital Partners vice president of compliance Solomon Friedman said there is great «social, financial and technological» value in sharing how Mindgeek hosts and moderates content about «positive adult sexual expression.» that they consent».

Ethical Capital Partners will have «full control» over its new assets, Friedman told NBC News. in a Press release In announcing the acquisition, the firm says it is seeking investment opportunities in industries that require «principled, ethical leadership.»

Friedman, a defense attorney for nearly 15 years, said he has worked on litigation involving the investigation, detection and deterrence of child sexual abuse material.

Mindgeek rarely spoke in the years after the New York Times op-ed, but his new ownership is boldly asserting Pornhub’s right to exist.

According to Friedman, Mindgeek’s tools for detecting content misbehavior were a «key reason» Ethical Capital Partners made the acquisition. These include Mindgeek and Pornhub’s verified upload program, a law enforcement portal, and «a suite of tools» for filtering content and tracking down stolen content.

“In fact, we see tremendous untapped opportunities in taking these tools and sharing them with the world,” Friedman said.

On average, in 2021, it took Pornhub slightly less time to remove CSAM than other platforms. according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Pornhub responded to three NCMEC child sexual abuse notifications in less than five hours on average, compared to the overall average for all websites, which was just over 24 hours.

Outside 30 million reports of child exploitation to NCMEC in 2021, Pornhub filed just over 9,000 reports, and Mindgeek’s other pornography websites filed fewer than 100 reports combined.

Friedman said Ethical Capital Partners plans to support and focus sex workers and sexually explicit content creators in discussions about legislation and regulation, including what payment processors like Visa and Mastercard do and don’t allow of sex workers. and pornography websites.

“We have stood up for sex workers and we have seen the stigma,” Friedman said. “There is stigma and shame and that means that there are discussions and debates in the absence of those most affected.”

The acquisition announcement has been met with optimism by adult stars and sex workers, said Mike Stabile, director of public affairs for the Free Speech Coalition, the trade association for the adult industry.

“At a time when the industry is under incredible legislative and cultural attack, it really helps to have one of the largest companies speak out,” Stabile said.

In addition to announcing the Mindgeek acquisition, Ethical Capital Partners also announced the creation of an advisory board, which includes Dr. Val Webber, who has PhDs in community health and humanities. Webber has experience in the webcam industry and hopes to strengthen the safety and health of sex artists and workers.

“My goal will always be that artist safety is never sacrificed for some other vision of safety,” Webber said. «It’s things like sexual health, but also mental health from being constantly watched and constantly being robbed of your livelihood.»