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Visa to suspend ad payments on MindGeek’s Pornhub amid child pornography lawsuit


Visa on Thursday announced that it will be suspending Visa services for TrafficJunky, the advertising arm of Pornhub parent company MindGeek amid allegations that the financial services company monetized illegal content on the platform.

The announcement came after a California district judge recently decided to allow a lawsuit against Visa and MindGeek alleging that the companies monetized child pornography and violated trafficking laws to proceed after Visa filed a motion to dismiss.

“With respect to MindGeek specifically, we suspended sites that contained user-generated content in December 2020 and acceptance on those sites has not been reinstated. Despite what you may have read in recent days, you cannot use your Visa card on Pornhub,” Visa Chairman and CEO Alfred Kelly Jr. said in a Thursday statement. “The legal decision, with which we disagree, has also created new uncertainty about the role of TrafficJunky, MindGeek’s advertising arm. Accordingly, we will suspend TrafficJunky’s Visa acceptance privileges based on the court’s decision until further notice.”

He added that during the suspension, “Visa cards will not be able to be used to purchase advertising on any sites including Pornhub or other MindGeek affiliated sites.”

LAWSUIT ACCUSING PORNHUB PARENT COMPANY MINDGEEK OF MONETIZING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY CAN MOVE FORWARD, JUDGE RULES

A PornHub logo seen displayed on a smartphone screen with a computer wallpaper in the background in Athens, Greece on November 12, 2021. (Photo by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A California lawsuit alleges that Visa played a role in monetizing child pornography distributed on MindGeek’s websites, such as Pornhub. (Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto / Getty Images)

In response to Judge Cormac Carney’s order to allow the case to move forward, Kelly emphasized that Visa “strongly” disagrees with the decision and is “confident” in its position that Visa was not complicit in MindGeek’s alleged actions because Visa cards were used to purchased advertisements on the company’s porn websites such as Pornhub. He added that while he knows the case can take “years,” he felt “compelled to speak out” as a “father and grandfather.”

“Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse,” he said. “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. We are vigilant in our efforts to deter this and other illegal activity on our network.”

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Judge Carney was required to assume that 100% of the plaintiff’s allegations are true in order to make the ruling.

“Visa lent to MindGeek a much-needed tool—its payment network—with the alleged knowledge that there was a wealth of monetized child porn on MindGeek’s websites,” he wrote. “If Visa was aware that there was a substantial amount of child porn on MindGeek’s sites, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, then it was aware that it was processing the monetization of child porn, moving money from advertisers to MindGeek for advertisements playing alongside child porn like Plaintiff’s videos.”

A phone and the Pornhub logo

MindGeek is “confident” that the plaintiff’s “claims will be dismissed for lack of merit” once Carney is able to “consider the facts” in the case, a company spokesperson told Fox News Digital in a statement.  (iStock / iStock)

Visa alleged in its motion to dismiss that it did not have any substantial influence over MindGeek’s operations on its porn websites, but Carney wrote that “Visa quite literally did force MindGeek to operate differently, and markedly so, at least for a time” when it temporarily suspended payments for MindGeek after The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof published a disturbing Dec. 4, 2020, report detailing the abuse of minors and female victims on Pornhub including “child rapes, revenge pornography, spycam videos.”

The financial services company also stated that it could not be expected to police “the billions of individual transactions it processes each year.” But Carter says it is not being asked to do so. “It is simply being asked to refrain from offering the tool with which a known alleged criminal entity performs its crimes. That is not a tall order and does not spell out an existential threat to the financial industry,” the judge wrote. 

MASTERCARD TACKLES CONSENT ON PORN SITES, REQUIRES BANKS TO CERTIFY MATERIAL AFTER DISTRESSING REPORTS

Carter concluded: “Visa is being kept in this case because it is alleged to have continued to recognize as a merchant an immense, well known, and highly visible business that it knew used its websites to host and monetize child porn.”

Plaintiff Serena Fleites alleges in the lawsuit that when she was 13 years old in 2014, her then-boyfriend pressured her into making an explicit video and then uploaded it to MindGeek’s most popular free porn website, Pornhub.com, which reportedly gets more annual website visits than Netflix.

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The video apparently garnered 400,000 views by the time Fleites discovered it and continued to be viewed in the weeks it allegedly took for Pornhub to remove it. The complaint further alleges that the video was also downloaded and re-uploaded to the site several times.

“Plaintiff’s life spiraled out of control,” the lawsuit states. Fleites alleges that she dropped out of school, distanced herself from family and friends, attempted suicide multiple times, and met an older man who introduced her to heroin, while she was still minor. 

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“To fund her heroin addiction, Plaintiff—still a minor at this point—created sexually explicit videos at the older man’s behest, who in turn sold the videos on Craigslist. Some of the videos were uploaded to Pornhub and were still available on the website as recently as June 2020,” the complaint states, describing the ordeal of removing content as a”whack-a-mole situation” for victims.



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