Mainstream sites were left displaying hardcore porn after an expired domain redirected to X-rated videos

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Mainstream sites were left displaying hardcore porn after an expired domain redirected to X-rated videos
The page the 'Vid.Me' link redirected to, with graphic content blurred by Insider 5 Star HD Porn/Insider
  • Hardcore porn made its way onto mainstream news sites including the Guardian and Washington Post.
  • Old posts which embedded content from the site Vidme instead showed content from 5 Star HD Porn.
  • Some sites moved quickly to remove the explicit imagery, while others appeared not to have noticed.

Hardcore porn appeared on major news sites after a defunct video-hosting domain was redirected to X-rated content.

The issue hit sites which embedded posts from Vidme. The network shut down in 2017, but lived on in the embed codes of many external sites. The phenomenon was first reported by Vice News.

On Friday morning, Insider found explicit content from 5 Star HD Porn on sites including The Guardian, Refinery29, The Boston Globe, the UK's Daily Telegraph, and the Russian state-controlled Sputnik News.

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Some Insider pages were also affected, though by time of publication the content had been removed. Insider is not linking to the pages since they currently contain pornography.

The Guardian's embed appeared in a 2014 liveblog about a new video from Azealia Banks, which the paper described as "a little bit NSFW."

Mainstream sites were left displaying hardcore porn after an expired domain redirected to X-rated videos
A screengrab from a 2014 article on The Guardian with the porn site embedded. The Guardian

A spokesperson for the paper told Insider that they are in the process of removing all Vid.me embeds from the site.

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The Telegraph's embed, from a 2016 article about Facebook videos, has produced the unfortunate combination of a Catholic baptism and the explicit images.

Mainstream sites were left displaying hardcore porn after an expired domain redirected to X-rated videos
A screengrab from a 2016 article on The Telegraph with the porn site embedded. The Telegraph

A Boston Globe article pulling together videos from riots in Baltimore in 2015 included explicit content too.

Refinery29 had porn on a 2016 article on the release of Ariana Grande and Lil Wayne's "Let Me Love You."

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An Insider 2017 article which embedded leaked pre-release videos of the Nintendo Switch console instead briefly displayed porn. The embeds were removed on Friday morning.

Mainstream sites were left displaying hardcore porn after an expired domain redirected to X-rated videos
Insider did not escape unscathed. Insider

Sputnik News wrote Friday about how the issue affected US sites without mentioning that it had affected at least one of its own pages.

Mainstream sites were left displaying hardcore porn after an expired domain redirected to X-rated videos
A screenshot of a Sputnik article embedded with porn. Sputnik

Vidme stopped operating in 2017, as detailed in this Medium post:

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In the post, founder Warren Schaeffer said that the site had been acquired by Giphy.

It now appears to be in the hands of 5 Star HD Porn, which is redirecting Vidme links to its home page. The page includes explicit thumbnail images advertising dozens of videos, and pornographic video ads which auto-play.

The issue also affected The Washington Post, HuffPost and New York Magazine, as Vice first reported. Those sites appeared to have fixed the issue by Friday morning.

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People soon noticed the flood of NSFW images and commented on social media.

Tech news site The Register also spotted the issue in a Fox Sports article about Dwyane Wade. A 2015 New York Magazine "Intelligencer" column about former House Speaker John Boehner also took the unexpectedly graphic turn, Vice reported.

5 Star HD Porn could not be reached for comment. Insider contacted all media outlets mentioned for comment.

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