Pornhub’s Legal Turmoil Prompts Visa to Halt Card Payments on Ad Buys

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Caught up in the crosshairs of legal controversy, Visa is halting card payments for advertising on Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek following a lawsuit that accused the payment giant of knowingly facilitating the distribution of child pornography on Pornhub and other sites owned by MindGeek.

“Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse. It is illegal, and Visa does not permit the use of our network for illegal activity. Our rules explicitly and unequivocally prohibit the use of our products to pay for content that depicts nonconsensual sexual behavior or child sexual abuse,” Alfred F. Kelly Jr., Visa CEO and chairman, said in a blog post on Thursday (Aug. 4).

“We are vigilant in our efforts to deter this and other illegal activity on our network. Moreover, we require Visa’s financial institution clients, which maintain the direct relationships with merchants, to assure and attest to merchants’ compliance with our standards,” Kelly added.

Visa was denied a motion by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. District Court, Central California in Santa Ana to dismiss a lawsuit that accused it of facilitating the distribution of child pornography on Pornhub and other sites, according to multiple media outlets.

The judge said Visa decided to continue recognizing MindGeek as a merchant, despite its alleged knowledge that MindGeek monetized child porn.

The lawsuit stems from a woman suing Visa and MindGeek over a sexually explicit video her boyfriend filmed of her when she was 13 years old, according to a CNBC report.

The case Serena Fleites v. MindGeek accuses Pornhub of profiting from the video and Visa for enabling Pornhub to monetize the content, per reports.

“From day one, MindGeek and all of its platforms, including Pornhub, have never tolerated CSAM [child sexual abuse material] or any other illegal material. It is against our stated terms and conditions, it is against our values, and it is against our commitment to ensuring the safest possible online experience for our users,” a MindGeek spokesperson told PYMNTS.

“Recently, allegations have been made that MindGeek knowingly allowed and monetized CSAM. These assertions are reckless and, more importantly, absolutely false. In many cases, these falsehoods have been propagated by groups whose stated agenda is to shut down the adult entertainment industry,” the spokesperson said.

The court decision created uncertainty about the role of MindGeek’s advertising division TrafficJunky, Kelly said per the blog post.

“It is Visa’s policy to follow the law of every country in which we do business. We do not make moral judgments on legal purchases made by consumers, and we respect the rightful role of lawmakers to make decisions about what is legal and what is not,” Kelly said. “Visa can be used only at MindGeek studio sites that feature adult professional actors in legal adult entertainment.”

The CEO said Visa had already suspended sites that contained user-generated content in December 2020, and acceptance on those sites has not been reinstated.

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Mastercard also released a statement Thursday regarding its adult content standards, saying it is “directing financial institutions to suspend acceptance of our products at TrafficJunky.”

New facts from last week’s court ruling made us aware of advertising revenue outside of our view that appears to provide Pornhub with indirect funding,” Mastercard continued, adding, “We have zero tolerance for illegal activity on our network. We will continue to follow this case and take further action, as necessary.”