Visa and Mastercard Will Stop Processing Payments to Pornhub

The announcement made on Thursday follows a major policy shift from Pornhub that the platform would ban unverified uploads and downloads
December 10, 2020, 8:26pm
Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

On Thursday, both Visa and Mastercard announced that they would cut ties with Pornhub. Mastercard cited "unlawful content" on the site. 

The decision comes after Visa and Mastercard said on Monday that they would investigate allegations of child sexual abuse imagery on Pornhub, and their relationship to MindGeek, Pornhub's parent company.   

“Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site,” Mastercard said in a statement to Bloomberg on Thursday. “We instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance.”

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Following that news, an official Visa account tweeted: “Given the allegations of illegal activity, Visa is suspending Pornhub’s acceptance privileges pending the completion of our ongoing investigation. We are instructing the financial institutions who serve MindGeek to suspend processing of payments through the Visa network.”

“These actions are exceptionally disappointing, as they come just two days after Pornhub instituted the most far-reaching safeguards in user-generated platform history,” Pornhub said in a statement. “Unverified users are now banned from uploading content -- a policy no other platform has put in place, including Facebook, which reported 84 million instances of child sexual abuse material over the last three years. In comparison, the Internet Watch Foundation reported 118 incidents on Pornhub over the last three years. This news is crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods.”

On Monday, Mastercard said in a statement to the New York Times that if the claims were substantiated, the credit card company would "take immediate action... When we identify illegal activity, our policy is to ask the acquirer to terminate the relationship, unless an effective compliance plan is put in place.”

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This follows a major policy shift announcement from Pornhub on Tuesday, that the platform would ban unverified uploads and downloads and bolster existing moderation practices. Models who use the site have been asking the platform to make these changes for a long time; the platform made the change following an expose from the New York Times into the lives of sexual assault victims' images hosted on the site, and pressure from payment processors. 

The author of that story, Nicholas Kristof, tweeted on Thursday that Mastercard "confirmed the presence of illegal material on Pornhub." 

Republican senator Josh Hawley also tweeted the announcement, adding that "Visa and every other credit card company should immediately do the same."

In his piece, Kristof uncritically cited the work of Exodus Cry, an organization that lobbies for Pornhub to be shut down entirely. Removing Mastercard payments from Pornhub will undoubtedly harm the many models who use the site as a source of income.

This isn't the first time a payment processor stopped working with Pornhub. In November 2019, PayPal pulled service out of Pornhub, after the company said it "discovered that Pornhub has made certain business payments through PayPal without seeking our permission." 

In addition to hosting videos from major porn production companies, Pornhub also allows individual users to monetize their videos directly on Pornhub or via its clip selling service Modelhub. At this point, we don't know what kind of impact credit companies cutting ties with the site will have on sex workers, but payment processors have been discriminating against sex workers for years.

This piece was updated at 4:08 p.m. to include Visa’s announcement.