Accused of profiting on child sexual abuse, Visa halts Pornhub ad payments

Accused of profiting on child sexual abuse, Visa halts Pornhub ad payments

This week, a California court denied Visa’s motion to be dropped from a lawsuit alleging that Visa “intended to help” monetize child sexual abuse materials hosted on sites like Pornhub. In part, because the credit card company processed payments for ads featured alongside these videos, the judge determined that Visa will have to answer to victim claims that Visa provided the tool that made hosting illicit videos profitable.

Today, Visa responded to the court’s decision by suspending all advertising purchases from Pornhub owner MindGeek’s advertising arm, TrafficJunky. “During this suspension, Visa cards will not be able to be used to purchase advertising on any sites including Pornhub or other MindGeek affiliated sites,” Alfred F. Kelly, Jr., Visa chairman and CEO, wrote in a statement.

This move follows an earlier decision Visa made in December 2020 to stop allowing payments on MindGeek’s websites featuring user-generated content, like Pornhub. The new statement says that they decided to end advertising payments, too, because the California court’s decision “created new uncertainty about the role of TrafficJunky” in MindGeek’s alleged practice of posting illegal videos depicting content that Visa says it condemns.

“Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse,” Kelly wrote. “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.” He also said that Visa directly communicates with all of its merchants to ensure they comply with these standards. The suspension will likely resume until the lawsuit is settled.

Visa still disputes the legitimacy of its involvement in the lawsuit, earlier this week saying the company is an “improper defendant.”

From this point forward, Kelly says that Visa expects to build its defense and present exonerating evidence. Until the matter is settled, he says that “Visa can be used only at MindGeek studio sites that feature adult professional actors in legal adult entertainment.”

MindGeek did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Lauren Tabaksblat, Brown Rudnick lead attorney representing victims suing, says Visa’s most recent move to stop doing business with MindGeek came too late. She says, “Visa’s announcement today is way overdue and way short. It is utter bad faith for Visa to suggest that it did not know what was happening on MindGeek‘s sites despite numerous media reports of horrific abuse, many investigative journalist reports about the abuse, a viral online campaign by advocates about the abuse, detailed reports of the abuse from advocates and victims sent to senior management, a New York Times story about the abuse, and public testimony from lawyers and victims about the abuse.”

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