Visa and Mastercard pause Pornhub advertising buys over child porn concerns

An ongoing lawsuit accuses Visa of knowingly facilitating the distribution of child pornography on MindGeek properties.

A protester wears a cap with the Pornhub logo during a demonstration at the Ministry of Digital Econ...

Visa and Mastercard will both block advertising payments to Pornhub and all other MindGeek-owned websites. The move comes after a federal judge refused Visa’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging the company of helping spread child pornography.

Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly, Jr. released a statement saying the company strongly disagrees with the judge’s dismissal. “Our rules explicitly and unequivocally prohibit the use of our products to pay for content that depicts nonconsensual sexual behavior or child sexual abuse,” Kelly writes. “We are vigilant in our efforts to deter this and other illegal activity on our network.”

Kelly points to Visa’s December 2020 decision to stop accepting payments for Pornhub as evidence of the company’s stance on the matter. As was true in that case, Visa is taking a proactive stance here: Visa has not been found guilty of anything, but simply being implicated in such touchy subject matter has sent the company packing.

TrafficJunky implications — The case at the center of MindGeek’s current controversy is a doozy. A video of the plaintiff as a 13-year-old was uploaded to Pornhub, and it took MindGeek weeks to take down the video once she brought it to the company’s attention. During that time, the lawsuit alleges, the video was downloaded and reposted by other users on the site, too. She allegedly received messages from strangers about the video for years.

The case places a heavy focus on the profits MindGeek made from this video. Because MindGeek runs many free websites, it makes more than half its revenue from its advertising arm, TrafficJunky. MindGeek, for this reason, has an incentive to drive traffic to videos like the one of the plaintiff.

“Like a billboard on Interstate 5 is more expensive than the Grapevine,” the lawsuit states, “the price to advertise on MindGeek’s sites corresponds with the traffic on those sites: the higher the traffic, the pricier the ad space.”

This is where Visa’s alleged complicity comes in. As the judge points out in their dismissal of Visa’s motion, the plaintiff is suing MindGeek for benefiting financially from child porn — and Visa’s payment processing systems were indeed involved with how money made it into MindGeek’s hands.

Pornhub’s dominos keep falling — Earlier this summer, both the CEO and COO of MindGeek resigned from the company. The company has been caught up in intense controversy for years now; this particular lawsuit is just one of many.

Pornhub users have not been able to process payments using Visa or Mastercard for a year and a half now. It’s strange, really, that either company still allowed their services to be used for advertising purposes on MindGeek’s sites.

“We look forward to shining a light onto the lengths Visa goes to ensure the integrity of our people and network,” concludes the Visa CEO in his statement.