Mastercard Dumps Pornhub

Mastercard Dumps Pornhub
Photo: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Following an opinion piece in the New York Times which called out both Pornhub for hosting nonconsensual and often illegal material, and the credit card companies for enabling the site to profit from it, Mastercard has terminated its relationship with Pornhub. For now though, Mastercard will continue to do business with parent company Mindgeek, which owns a spate of other porn sites.

Mastercard and Visa announced an investigation into the Times’ allegations, and Pornhub jumped to promise a sweeping change in moderation efforts and verification rules. This, on top of last year’s PayPal exit, is a blow, and it’s probably safe to assume that Visa’s fleeing next. (The story’s author, Nick Kristof, called out American Express by name as well, though the company appears to have stopped covering credit card transactions for porn sites over two decades ago.)

A Mastercard spokesperson shared a statement with Gizmodo that the company’s “investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site.” Mastercard added that, in keeping with its policies, it has “instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance.”

The Times reported on various types of unlawful content, including child sex abuse material (CSAM), nonconsensual porn, and documentation of assault. While Pornhub has claimed that instances of CSAM are incredibly low, the site is filled with borderline content, and there’s no way to tell whether a person in an amateur video is of age. Anecdotally, many have said that the company hasn’t responded to takedown requests. Pornhub notoriously neglected to remove the page for “Girls Do Porn”; it only did so after numerous allegations that the production company lied to and coerced women finally resulted in federal sex trafficking charges.

After Visa and Mastercard announced their investigation, Pornhub announced with a policy overhaul. Yesterday, it said it would prevent unverified users from uploading videos — limiting that privilege to model program members and content partners. (The latter probably deserves another inspection, since Girls Do Porn was a “content partner.”) It also banned downloads (still, easy to circumvent) and announced that it’ll start rolling out Transparency Reports a la Facebook and Twitter. In place of to hiring additional moderators it instead promised to deploy a special “Red Team” to review its moderation systems and reexamine the site. It didn’t specify how many people are on the “Red Team,” and added that it already has “an extensive team of human moderators.” The company has told Gizmodo the policy changes will apply across parent company Mindgeek’s porn universe including other tubes like RedTube and YouPorn.

Mastercard is, at the moment, covering its arse pursuant to the Times report, which the company directly cited as the reason for the investigation. In an email, Mastercard told Gizmodo that the change will only apply to Pornhub and not other Mindgeek sites. In the statement, though, Mastercard said that it continues “to investigate potential illegal content on other websites to take the appropriate action.”

Pornhub was not immediately available for comment.