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Mastercard, Visa cut card payment ties with Pornhub over child abuse, illegal content allegations

Mastercard and Visa have distanced themselves from Pornhub by revoking card payment services following accusations that the website is hosting illegal content. 

Pornhub is one of the world’s largest pornography video platforms. In 2019, the company said it recorded 42 billion visits or an average of 115 million visits per day. Pornhub generates income through premium subscriptions and ad impressions. 

A New York Times report, published on December 4, accused Pornhub of monetizing “child rapes, revenge pornography, spycam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags,” and said the platform was “infested” with sexual abuse content. 

Furthermore, the report claimed that Pornhub is not in control of content uploaded to the platform that involves minors.

“Because it’s impossible to be sure whether a youth in a video is 14 or 18, neither Pornhub nor anyone else has a clear idea of how much content is illegal,” the report says. 

When contacted by the NYT, Pornhub dismissed claims that the company allowed child-related video content on the platform as “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.”

“Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating child sexual abuse material, and has instituted a comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community,” Pornhub added. 

This week, Pornhub implemented changes to user video uploads. Effective immediately, the company said only “verified uploaders” from content partners and people within the Model Program would be able to upload content; download facilities have been revoked for free users, and Pornhub has promised to expand content moderation. 

It is worth noting that Google, Twitter, and Facebook are also constantly working to remove child abuse and illegal sexual content from search results and their respective platforms. 

See also: Mastercard keeping humans in the loop of AI fraud and risk-related decisions

However, these assurances have not been enough for payment service providers that have previously worked with Pornhub. As reported by The Guardian, both Mastercard and Visa are now reviewing their links with the website. 

Mastercard conducted its own investigation into the allegations. According to Nicholas Kristof, the NYT investigator, the financial services giant said on Thursday:

 “Today, the use of our cards at Pornhub is being terminated.  Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content […] we continue to investigate potential illegal content on other websites.”

Visa is in the middle of its own investigation into Pornhub and has decided to temporarily suspend card activity. 

“Given the allegations of illegal activity, Visa is suspending Pornhub’s acceptance privileges pending the completion of our ongoing investigation,” the company said in a statement. “We are instructing the financial institutions who serve MindGeek to suspend processing of payments through the Visa network.”

Pornhub is owned by MindGeek, an umbrella parent company that maintains over 100 websites and brands aside from Pornhub, including RedTube and Youporn. The decision to suspend card payments will likely hit the conglomerate hard, and may also affect legal workers in the sex industry who generate an income from paid members on these platforms. 

The company told The Guardian that the decision “is crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods.”

ZDNet has reached out to MindGeek with additional queries and will update when we hear back. 

Previous and related coverage


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