Jonathon Van Maren

From the front lines of the culture wars


Mastercard and Visa block payments to Pornhub over underage rape and abuse videos

'Big question—why was Mastercard able to investigate [and] CONFIRM illegal content, and take action in 3 days while the Canadian government has known about this since March and done nothing?' Canadian MP Arnold Viersen said in response to the news
Mon Dec 14, 2020 - 11:57 am EST
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Kate Krav-Rude /

December 14, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Last week Monday, I covered Nicholas Kristof’s devastating exposé of Pornhub in the New York Times. Those of us involved in the anti-porn movement have been highlighting this problem for years, and it appears that politicians and corporations are finally being jolted into action. Pornhub is frantically attempting to blunt the damage after ignoring similar reports from advocacy groups and victims, and their reaction (after dismissing countless stories of rape and abuse on their sites) indicates that they are genuinely afraid of what the backlash will bring. And the backlash has begun.

In a follow-up column, Kristof noted that government forces finally seem to be in motion. Four senators, Maggie Hassan, Josh Hawley, Jonie Ernst, and Thom Tillis (and I’m genuinely surprised that there aren’t more of them) “introduced bipartisan legislation to make it easier for rape victims to sue porn companies that profit from videos of their assaults.” Senator Jeff Merkley is also drafting a law that will regulate porn companies, and apparently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that his government is also willing to draft regulations for porn platforms. 

Both Visa and Mastercard have announced that they will be cutting ties with Pornhub and that their cards will no longer be compatible with the porn giant. Discover Financial Services announced that it would be following suit (American Express Co. had already rendered their cards unusable for porn sites, and PayPal cut them off in 2019.) Mastercard stated that their investigation of the site found illegal content—Visa’s investigation is ongoing, but Pornhub is suspended from using its services until completion. 

MP Arnold Viersen, who has been sounding the alarm on Pornhub for several years, noted that the Trudeau government has been dragging its feet on addressing this problem for some time: “Big question—why was Mastercard able to investigate [and] CONFIRM illegal content, and take action in 3 days while the Canadian government has known about this since March and done nothing?” The answer is likely a simple one—Trudeau, like Pornhub, is being forced to take action by the publicity surrounding Pornhub’s crimes.

While Viersen has been calling for action since 2016, other parliamentarians are joining the fray. Two major executives at Pornhub, which is owned by the Montreal-based corporation Mindgeek, have been called on by Canadian MPs to testify before a parliamentary committee on the revelations that the porn giant has hosted content featuring rape and child abuse. Feras Antoon, the CEO at Mindgeek, and David Tassillo, the COO, will be asked by MPs if they plan to make reparations to the victims. 

The motion, which was passed unanimously with support from all parties, reads as follows:

That the committee call representatives…to explain the company’s failure to prohibit rape videos and other illegal content from the site, and what steps it has taken and plans to take to protect the reputation and privacy of young people and other individuals who have never provided their consent.

The motion was introduced by Toronto Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who noted: “I would…like to ask them how they expect to remedy the harm caused to individuals who never provided their consent for images and videos to be shared.” Erskine-Smith noted that the parliamentary committee will also consider government regulation, and NDP MP Charlie Angus noted on social media that the committee would also be asking survivors of Pornhub to testify. While the porn executives have yet to respond, CTV noted that “parliamentary committees have the right to request witness testimony and can legally summon a person as long as he or she is on Canadian soil.”

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In response to all of this, Pornhub is panicking as their worst nightmare unfolds. In an obvious attempt to halt the scrutiny and avoid being strangled by regulations, they began by claiming that they would implement all of Kristof’s recommended steps. As Kristof noted:

All this may explain why Pornhub on Tuesday announced three steps that mirrored suggestions I made in a long investigative column over the weekend that quoted the young people who so bravely told their stories. 1.) It will allow videos to be uploaded only by people who have verified their identities. 2.) It will improve moderation. 3.) It will no longer allow video downloads, which allow illegal material to proliferate. We should all be suitably skeptical. Fake IDs abound, and in September a Tuscaloosa, Alabama, man was charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in videos that he posted on his verified Pornhub account. And even if there is no download button, it is still possible to download using other methods.

Kristof continues to insist that the problem is not pornography itself, but rape. Perhaps a further investigation would reveal to Kristof that the two are inextricably connected (Dr. Mary Anne Layden of the University of Pennsylvania has done essential research on this, among many others.) My friend Dawn Hawkins of the National Centre on Combatting Sexual Exploitation put it well in the New York Times:

[W]e cannot wrap a pretty bow around this story. Pornhub’s “improvements” will not stop the scourge of vile content it profits from. Pornhub’s 13 million existing videos depicting content ranging from rape, child sexual abuse, incest, and misogynistic and racist themes — to name a few — garner hundreds of thousands of views, and each view will make Pornhub only more money. It can’t just make changes going forward; all existing videos must be removed. Facilitating the distribution of child sexual abuse material and profiting from it is an abhorrent act and enough on its own to merit Pornhub’s shutdown.

Hawkins is precisely right. Pornhub’s executives have known about these problems for years. Evidence of sex trafficking, child rape, and brutal violence and torture on their websites has been publicly available for a very long time. As long as the public and the politicians didn’t seem to care, neither did they. Now that their profit margins may be threatened, they’re panicking.

They should be prosecuted, and Pornhub should be shut down. The victims deserve nothing less.

  mastercard, new york times, pornhub, pornograpy, rape, visa

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