Topline

Visa will allow its cards to be used to make payments on adult websites owned by MindGeek that host professionally produced content, but will maintain its freeze on the company’s highest-traffic site, Pornhub, two weeks after the credit card company cut off MindGeek in the wake of a New York Times column that alleged Pornhub hosted and monetized videos featuring child sexual abuse, revenge porn and other illegal content.

Key Facts

According to Reuters, Visa will continue to block use of its cards on sites that host user-posted adult content.

The blanket ban on all websites owned by MindGeek led adult film performers to protest over their loss of income.

Pornhub told Reuters that it was “disappointed” by Visa’s decision, claiming it has taken effective measures to remove illegal content from its sites.

Key Background

Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reported that Pornhub was monetizing videos featuring “child rapes, revenge pornography, spycam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags.” The fallout was swift and within days both Mastercard and Visa stopped processing payments from the adult streaming site following internal reviews. Pornhub responded by saying it would bar unverified users from uploading or downloading content from the site. In a more sweeping action that followed it then said it would suspend all videos on its site that were not uploaded by its content partners or verified performers, purging nearly two-thirds of the site’s uploads.

Chief Critic

In a statement issued earlier this month, the Sex Workers Outreach Project Behind Bars denounced Visa and Mastercard’s decision, calling it a “war” against sex workers. “Violence against sex workers includes the societal and institutional violence that has led to the shuttering of our online platforms that give us a measure of safety and allow us the critical resource that is the ability to access banking,” the group said.

What To Watch For

Following the Times’ report, a group of bipartisan senators led by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced a bill that would give victims of crimes like revenge porn, sex trafficking and sexual assault the ability to sue sites like Pornhub for hosting illegal content depicting them. If passed, the bill would criminalize knowingly hosting or distributing images that depict forced or coerced sex acts and footage shared without participants’ permission, and allow victims to sue websites that do. Websites will also be required to ensure that victims have access to measures that would allow them to “promptly have their images removed from the internet.”

Further Reading

Visa continues Pornhub ban, to allow card use on some of its parent’s sites (Reuters)

Pornhub Takes Down All Content Uploaded By Unverified Users (Forbes)

Mastercard, Visa Cut Off Pornhub Following Charges Of Illegal Content (Forbes)

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