Visa and Mastercard ban Pornhub over abusive videos
December 11, 2020
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Visa and Mastercard ban Pornhub over abusive videos

Pornhub has been banned from accepting payments over the Visa and Mastercard networks—a serious blow for a site that has come under increasing fire for failing to effectively filter harmful content.

“The issue is not pornography but rape,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in a column last week that inspired the credit card companies’ moves. “Promoting assaults on children or on anyone without consent is unconscionable.”

Like other social media sites, Pornhub allowed anyone to upload content to be shared with others. Many of those videos depict adults engaged in consensual sexual acts. But Kristof said a number of videos show sex acts involving children under the age of 18. He also found videos of women being raped, creepy hidden-camera videos, and “recordings of assaults on unconscious women and girls.”

While Pornhub has a moderation team, it’s far smaller than those of mainstream social media sites, and Kristof found it was ineffective at blocking even the most offensive videos.

Under mounting public pressure, Pornhub’s owner—a shadowy, Canada-based porn conglomerate called MindGeek—took several steps on Wednesday to slow the spread of harmful material. Pornhub has banned uploads by nonverified users, which should reduce the amount of abusive material that gets uploaded to the site. Pornhub has also disabled video downloads, which should make it more difficult for users to save a copy of an abusive video to re-upload to Pornhub or another site.

But these steps don’t seem to have satisfied Visa and Mastercard. In a statement to The New York Times, Mastercard said it had “confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content.”

Visa said that it was “instructing the financial institutions who serve MindGeek to suspend processing of payments through the Visa network” while it continued to investigate the issue.

While Kristof seems to have inspired the latest moves against Pornhub, pressure on the site has been building for months. In February, the BBC reported on a 14-year-old girl who was raped and had a video of the crime repeatedly uploaded to Pornhub. The US prosecution of the owners of GirlsDoPorn, a site that got women to participate in porn using fraud and coercion, has also shined a spotlight on Pornhub. GirlsDoPorn videos received millions of views on Pornhub.

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