Visa suspends card payments for ad buys on PornHub and MindGeek amid controversy

Al Kelly

Marc Neuling | CNBC

Visa is suspending card payments for advertising on Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek after a lawsuit stoked controversy that the payments giant may be facilitating child pornography.

A California federal judge on Friday denied Visa’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a woman who accuses the payment processor of knowingly facilitating the distribution of child pornography on Pornhub and other sites operated by parent company MindGeek .

Visa CEO and Chairman Al Kelly said in a statement Thursday that he strongly disagrees with this court and is confident in his position.

“Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse,” Kelly said. “It’s illegal, and Visa does not allow our network to be used for illegal activities. Our policies explicitly and unequivocally prohibit the use of our products to pay for content that depicts non-consensual sexual behavior or child sexual abuse. We are vigilant in our efforts to deter this, and other illegal activity on our network.”

Kelly said the court’s decision creates uncertainty about the role of TrafficJunky, the advertising arm of MindGeek, and as a result the company will suspend its Visa acceptance privileges until further notice. During this suspension, Visa cards cannot be used to purchase advertising on any site, including Pornhub or other MindGeek-affiliated sites, Kelly said.

“It is Visa’s policy to follow the law of each country in which we do business. We do not pass moral judgment on lawful purchases made by consumers, and we respect the legitimate role of lawmakers to make decisions on this what’s legal and what’s not,” Kelly said. “Visa can only be used on MindGeek Studios sites that feature professional adult actors in legal adult entertainment.”

The woman is suing Visa and MindGeek over a sexually explicit video her boyfriend filmed of her when she was 13.

U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the Central District of California in Santa Ana said Visa made the decision to continue recognizing MindGeek as a merchant, despite its alleged knowledge that MindGeek monetizes child pornography.

The CEO said Visa had already suspended sites with user-generated content in December 2020 and acceptance on those sites has not been restored.

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman recently spoke out about the controversy, calling on Visa to pressure Pornhub to remove child pornography from its site.

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