Mastercard and Visa reviewing ties with Pornhub over horrific accusations

Purchase, New York - After accusations that Pornhub is depicting videos of rape and child abuse, Mastercard Inc. said on Sunday it was investigating its business relationship with the platform.

More and more people are demanding a shutdown of Pornhub.
More and more people are demanding a shutdown of Pornhub.  © 123RF/Piotr Swat

In a December 4 article called The Children of Pornhub, New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that the pornographic website contains rape scenes, child abuse, and other explicit videos taken without participants' consent.

Such content is accessible to anyone willing to pay with their credit card.

"The issue is not pornography but rape. Let’s agree that promoting assaults on children or on anyone without consent is unconscionable," Kristof wrote, describing videos posted to the platform in which the rapist "would open the eyelids of the victims and touch their eyeballs to show that they were nonresponsive."

The column sparked a public outcry: why do financial service giants such as Mastercard and Visa allow payments to a website that promotes rape?

Mastercard told Reuters that it was investigating the claims with the bank of Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek. "If the claims are substantiated, we will take immediate action," Mastercard said.

Pornhub denies accusations

If the allegations against Pornhub are true, the finance giant Mastercard will withhold all payments to the platform.
If the allegations against Pornhub are true, the finance giant Mastercard will withhold all payments to the platform.  © imago images / Belga

Meanwhile, Pornhub has denied the accusations, claiming that "any assertion that we allow CSAM (child sexual abuse material) is irresponsible and flagrantly untrue."

When the well-known billionaire investor Bill Ackman (54) got wind of the allegations, he called on Mastercard and Visa to withhold any payments to Pornhub.

"We are aware of the allegations, and we are actively engaging with the relevant financial institutions to investigate, in addition to engaging directly with the site's parent company, MindGeek," Visa said.

The online payment service PayPal stopped payments to the website last year, and American Express has always prohibited the usage of its cards on pornographic websites.

Politicians are taking action

The payment service provider Visa is also investigating the issues raised by the NYT columnist.
The payment service provider Visa is also investigating the issues raised by the NYT columnist.  © imago images / teamwork

As any public member can upload a recording to the website, Ackman said it should be illegal for porn sites to post such videos before they are reviewed by a professional. The ages and consent of participants must also be validated.

Pornhub replied that's exactly what they're doing, claiming they have human moderators who review "every single upload." The website didn't specify how many people were involved, or whether and how they check the age of participants.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he was collaborating with police to investigate the issues raised by the NYT columnist.

US Senator Josh Hawley said he will introduce a bill giving every person "coerced or trafficked or exploited by sites like Pornhub" the right to sue.

It is not the first time that Pornhub, which attracts 3.5 billion visits a month, has been accused of sex trafficking and child rape. In February 2020, Laila Mickelwait published an op-ed called Time to shut Pornhub down in the Washington Examine. The journalist described recent incidents of exploitative content and called for Pornhub's closure.

It came as no surprise that Mickelwait's TraffickingHub campaign, launched in the same month, went viral, amassing over 2 million signatures and sparking protests outside MindGeek's headquarters in Montreal.

After PayPal stopped processing payments last year, Visa and MasterCard face increasing public pressure to follow suit.

Cover photo: 123RF/Piotr Swat

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