Visa and Mastercard Block Pornhub Following Investigation of Illegal Content

Both Mastercard and Visa announced on Thursday that they will block customers from using their cards to purchase content from Pornhub. The decision comes after the New York Times published an investigation by columnist Nicholas Kristof alleging that the site contained videos of rape, underage sex, revenge porn, and that the site featured video taken without the consent of all participants.

According to Mastercard, its own investigation of the site confirmed violations of the company’s standards prohibiting unlawful content. Visa suspended the use of Pornhub until its investigation was complete.

“This news is crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods,” Pornhub said in a statement on Thursday. The site had previously announced that it would ban unverified video uploads to the site in an attempt to prevent illegal content.

“[Pornhub will] only allow properly identified users to upload content. We have banned downloads. We have made some key expansions to our moderation process, and we recently launched a trusted flagger program with dozens of non-profit organizations,” the company said, announcing that the changes would be immediate.

However, many – including Laila Mickelwait, the Director of Abolition at Exodus Cry, an international faith-based nonprofit dedicated to the elimination of sex work – are celebrating the decision. Exodus Cry uses the term “abolition” to mean the elimination of all sex work – including porn and prostitution – through criminalization.

“This is a war with big porn,” Micelwait stated in November on her Instagram account. On Thursday, Mickelwait posted a graphic stating “Breaking News! Visa and Mastercard terminate use of their cards on Pornhub,” with the hashtag #winning.

Online sex work has become increasingly difficult in recent years. After the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) in April of 2018, many online payment processors – including PayPal – cracked down on explicit content as a precautionary measure. Tumblr, Reddit, Patreon, Ko-Fi, and many other social media sites used by content creators to advertise and sell their work banned adult content from their platforms.

In the resulting vacuum, OnlyFans – a site dedicated to adult content creators – became incredibly popular. The site is on track to pay out over $2 billion to content creators in 2020 – more than all funds paid out by creator-focused site Patreon in six years (2013-2019). Unfortunately, such a huge platform garnered the attention of big-name celebrities, including Bella Thorne.

In September, Thorne set a record by making $1 million in a single day. According to screenshots posted by OnlyFans users, Thorne charged $200 for a “naked” photo of herself – only for users who paid to receive a photo that was only Not Safe For Work – not nude. As a result of the ensuing controversy and blowback, OnlyFans placed a cap on how much content creators could charge for pay-per-view photos and videos of $50.

In addition, content creators may now only pay out their accounts every 30 days, and there is a cap of $100 on how much fans can tip any content creator at one time. However, in spite of these limitations, the site remains one of the most sex-work friendly websites on the internet.

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