Visa Suspends Card Payments for Ad Purchases on PornHub and MindGeek Amid Controversy

Mark Neuling | CNBC

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

A federal judge in California on Friday denied Visa's motion to dismiss a lawsuit 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 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."

Kelly said the court decision created uncertainty about the role of TrafficJunky, MindGeek's advertising arm, and accordingly, the company will suspend its Visa acceptance privileges until further notice. During this suspension, Visa cards will not be able to be used to purchase advertising on any sites, including Pornhub or other MindGeek affiliated sites, Kelly said.

"It is Visa's policy to follow the law of every country in which we do business. We do not make moral judgments on legal purchases made by consumers, and we respect the rightful role of lawmakers to make decisions about what is legal and what is not," Kelly said. "Visa can be used only at MindGeek studio sites that feature adult professional 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 in California said that Visa made the decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant, despite its alleged knowledge that MindGeek monetized child porn.

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

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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