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Pornhub Is In Deep Trouble

The last few years have not been kind to Pornhub, the world’s porn site (which makes it among the world’s most successful websites, period). After falling under increasing scrutiny for a lack of regulation that has allowed a deeply troubling amount of videos involving sexual assault and underage women onto its online catalog — sometimes without the knowledge of the people involved — Pornhub has been fending off criticism and scrambling to tighten the screws on its company even as its executive team jumps ship en masse. And it might be too little, too late.

This week, Pornhub’s parent company Mindgeek learned that Visa and Mastercard had suspended all card payments for advertising. Visa and Mastercard are apparently skittish that their payments could be used for things like sexually explicit material involving minors and revenge porn.

Visa is currently grappling with a lawsuit from a woman who was just 13 years old when her boyfriend filmed a sexually explicit video of her that was later posted to Pornhub. She says the payment giant knowingly facilitated the sexual abuse of minors. Visa unsuccessfully tried to get the lawsuit dismissed, as U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney said Visa either knew or should have known what its payments were being used for.

“It is simple,” Carney ruled. “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.”

Visa’s CEO criticized the judge’s decision and said they would have halted payments sooner if they’d known about Pornhub’s lax enforcement of their own rules.

“Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse,” said Visa CEO and Chairman Al Kelly. “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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Mastercard is not involved in that lawsuit, but is clearly watching it closely. “New facts from last week’s court ruling made us aware of advertising revenue outside of our view that appears to provide Pornhub with indirect funding,” read a statement from Mastercard to CNBC. “This step will further enforce our December 2020 decision to terminate the use of our products on that site.”

This is a real problem for Pornhub, which relies on credit card payments. In 2020, MindGeek made promises to clean Pornhub up and took steps to improve its vetting process for videos after credit card companies briefly halted payments. Now, with another round of indefinite payment halts, the future is unclear. Meanwhile, the porn giant is in danger of becoming a dinosaur in the adult entertainment sphere, as more users flock to creator-based content from sites like OnlyFans.

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