WIN for women & children: Visa and Mastercard suspend ad payments to Pornhub amid lawsuit

WIN for women & children: Visa and Mastercard suspend ad payments to Pornhub amid lawsuit

Women’s and children’s advocates have been celebrating the latest win in the fight against Pornhub after Visa and Mastercard suspended card payments for advertising on the porn giant’s platform on 4 August.

Activist Laila Mickelwait, who has been leading the fight against Pornhub, tweeted:

“The fight against Pornhub may finally be nearing an end. Pornhub and all of MindGeek’s porn tube sites were just completely demonetized by Visa and Mastercard. This is a huge moment for victims. Let’s celebrate with them and for them. #Traffickinghub”

A Californian court has denied Visa’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit by a woman – Serena Fleites – who has accused them of knowingly facilitating the distribution of child abuse sexual material on Pornhub and other sites operated by its parent company MindGeek, including an explicit video of herself that her boyfriend filmed when she was just 13 years old. MindGeek is also a defendant in the suit.

“It is simple,” US District Judge Cormac Carney said in his ruling.

“Visa made the decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant, despite its alleged knowledge that MindGeek monetized child porn. MindGeek made the decision to continue monetizing child porn, and there are enough facts pled to suggest that the latter decision depended on the former.”

This is the latest development in a saga that has been playing out for the past two years, partly brought to the fore by an investigative piece by Nick Kristoff for the New York Times in 2020 (which we wrote about here), which revealed the widespread rape, child sexual abuse, and trafficking content on Pornhub. At the time, the backlash caused Visa and Mastercard to demonetise MindGeek sites, but Visa subsequently reversed that decision, hence its inclusion in the current suit.

In addition, the initial demonetisation only affected public-facing transactions, such as Pornhub Premium memberships, but did not affect Pornhub’s revenue from those advertising on the platform and using their Visa or Mastercard to purchase such advertising.

The decision to go after Visa and other payment platforms that help funnel profits – particularly from advertising –  to Pornhub is not only justice, it’s genius. As Mickelwait wrote for Newsweek in June:

“You see, free porn isn't actually free. Not only is there a human cost, but the value of free porn is quantified with advertising revenue for the mega-corporations that run the sites (and the companies that process payments for the ads). Around every Pornhub video are advertisements by TrafficJunky, the advertising arm of MindGeek.

“MindGeek boasts 4.6 billion daily ad impressions across its free porn sites. The (now former) CEO of MindGeek, Feras Antoon, said 50 percent of company revenue is from advertising and The Logic pinned that ad revenue at $218 million in 2018. Antoon declared Pornhub is "an ad-supported platform, that's how we make our revenues, that's how Pornhub makes its revenues."

She added, “[i]f credit card companies stopped enabling transactions for Pornhub advertising, they could force the site to halt its harmful practices once and for all.” Indeed, days after Visa and Mastercard announced they were stopping payments in the wake of the 2020 New York Times piece, Pornhub removed 80 percent of its entire website – 10 million unverified videos – in under 24 hours. Father of four daughters, billionaire hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman recently agreed, telling CNBC, “[t]he ultimate regulator is actually Visa. Visa tomorrow could shut down MindGeek”.

This latest suspension of card payment facilities for Pornhub’s advertising revenue is a huge win for women and children everywhere – both those who have been directly violated for the purpose of entertainment on Pornhub and those who are indirectly impacted by an industry that glamorises the sexual abuse of women and children. We look forward to seeing justice served in Serena’s pending court case and the imminent demise of Pornhub, once and for all.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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