How Visa and MasterCard strong armed PornHub into making policy changes

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As the default method of payment, Visa and Mastercard ARE too powerful. And they COULD use that power in ways that would be dangerous to a free society. But I think that most of us think that cracking down on child porn and revenge porn are them using those powers for GOOD.


Very similar to how I gave up trying to get a VPN subscription because Visa & MasterCard block purchases of VPN products (the ones I was shopping for didn’t take PayPal either), forcing the use of cryptocurrencies and such, which was a bridge too far for me.


Cracking down on child and revenge porn is using it for good. Removing the channels of countless independent consenting adults relying on its role in their ability to earn a living during a pandemic because they’re not employed by skeevy Big Porn studios, not so much. And let’s not forget banks’ role in deliberately underbanking sex workers.

Instead of addressing the very real problem of rape culture by, among other things, moderating for nonconsensual and revenge porn the content of the independent sex workers off whom they made a fortune, they resorted to a policy that effectively consolidates Big Porn’s power because algorithms are terrible at moderation.

So yes, the fundamentally parasitic credit card companies can use their power for good, but it doesn’t make them not an evil institution.


Any website or individual can find itself running afoul of Visa and Mastercard’s moral sensibilities and shut off from receiving online payments.

Didn’t know they blocked Fetlife. Though add PayPal to the list of moral crusaders, and they won’t allow their site to be used for firearm purchases, even private.

That is the problem with heavy handed moderation and “cracking down” on anything. You’re going after the big fish, but the net sweeps up everything in their path.


I understand the speech concerns the EFF raises, but how is this not also properly viewed as a moral economic decision by Visa and MasterCard to not profit and facilitate child and/or involuntary pornography? Is it any morally different than, say, an investment fund deciding it won’t invest in fossil fuels or diamond mining, or making any other moral economic choice?

Obviously they aren’t opposed to participating in pornography in general (there are still millions of videos on the site), so don’t they have the right (leaving moral responsibility aside) to decide what kinds of activities they will profit from and which they will leave to others?

Is there some reason those independent consenting adults can’t follow the verification steps to keep their content available? (not snark, I’m genuinely asking)


I haven’t followed the story very closely, but I got the impression from commentary that the verification process involved them trusting MindGeek with personally identifying information under a real names type policy. I don’t know if they have to identify themselves to content consumers, but even if they were willing to trust MindGeek’s data security and ethics, it’s probably a bad idea to trust that information to most similar sites if this sets a precedent the financial services industry pursues. That’s if PornHub even has the intention of a human being addressing every creator rather than algorithmically, which even YouTube with all its resources and expensive code has shown is severely flawed and prone to abuse.

I believe the intention behind the audits were good. But I suspect it has and will effectively deplatform a lot of consenting adult independent sex workers.


Apparently everyone has forgotten about checks. Or setting up a payment through your bank account. You know, like every other monthly bill.

That said, fuck these self-appointed grandstanders.

to emphasize points that @GulliverFoyle made i just want to ask you, if you were part of a minority who is vastly more likely to be murdered because of your gender identity, would you be willing to trust mindgeek with your identifying details? even if you had a reliable income stream derived from your channel, would you be willing to trust them? seriously, would you be willing to just put your life in their hands? i take abuse online from time to time because i identify as bisexual, even though i am currently in a married and monogamous relationship with a woman, perhaps because i am in a married and monogamous relationship with a woman. i once dated a trans woman who was fired from her job when her employer found out she was trans. my relationship with her taught me a lot about the discrimination and abuse people like her are exposed to. this is not that hard to figure out if you actually think about it for more than 5 seconds.


Even if Mindgeek is benevolent, there are data hacks all the time, and a malevolent entity could get their data. I can see it being a valid concern.

Of course people wishing to skirt certain laws and decencies, will use this level of privacy to do bad things. :confused: I don’t know if there is a perfect solution. At least not until people doing what they do isn’t considered “bad” by some people and they don’t have fear of being a target.


Umm - I’m quite pro Porn Hub not making money from revenge porn? And wouldn’t it be odd to force Visa and Mastercard to make money off it? There’s lots of other ways to pay for stuff, even virtually, without cryptocurrency, without making their services mandatory. This feels like the sort of corporate responsibility BB is usually all for!

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It appears my question may not have been received in the spirit in which it was intended, so I hope you understand I was asking a question and not intending any offense. I appreciated @gulliverfoyle 's explanation, which I understand even if I am still ambivalent about the moral calculus of Visa & MC’s decision.


All the other valid concerns aside, I’m somewhat surprised to learn that it was possible to have a monetized channel that was anonymous (to MindGeek, anyway, obviously most would be anonymous to the public) in the first place. I would have thought that would immediately lead to monetizing revenge porn, which, I guess it probably did?


I read Thom’s concerns being about the fact that very few companies are able to effectively decide who gets to participate in the exchange of money irrespective of the law. Trying to fight revenge porn is good; though this strategy is dubious. The obvious question is what happens when these companies decide to do something that isn’t good? That’s the bargain of allowing corporations to function as an arm of the law.


Agreed. I think the headline’s use of ‘strong armed’ is way overwrought and seems ‘tail wagging the dog’ to me. V/MC made a business decision around their own company. Yes it had an effect on what pornhub responded with, but I wouldnt characterize this as strong-arming. More like they pulled out (unintentional pun but keeping it).

Is there finer-grained work for pornhub to do to lessen the collateral damage to legit adult workers that their (pornhub’s) platform left out to dry? Yes. But that’s on them. Shifting blame and responsibility onto V/MC seems disingenuous and/or lazy.

there are way better examples of the danger of large companies using their influence illegally/unethically. Using the removal of rape and revenge porn just doesn’t seem like the best hill to die on for the stated concern. (But lawyers do love using horrible use cases to try to prove their points for some strange reason).

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I don’t think that’s the case, firstly, because there are lots of other ways of moving money around, many of which are legal and easy to use. It’s not censorship if a company just doesn’t want to do business with you, that’s just freedom of choice.

Are we saying Visa and MasterCard are now heroes or something? Is this article praising monopoly powers? What is the take away here?

I agree with this. The problem isn’t companies exercising their freedom of association. The problem is the amount of power they hold with very little accountability.

If it were that simple credit card companies wouldn’t get away with fleecing ~ 2 to 2.5% from a colossal chunk of the economy and charging extortionate interest rates. They aren’t the only options, but they’re among a very few. Cryptocurrency is a bubble and the few companies that provide payment processing such as PayPal and banks directly through accounts are the credit card companies fellow travelers.

Again, corporate self-regulation is a poor substitute for real accountability.


Finance companies operate amorally, but hopefully within the bounds of (often incompatible/contradictory) law. From my research, this was not a moral choice, but a business one in order to head off the cost of their responsibilities relating to investigations. And ultimately to avoid prosecution and penalties.

We might think that, but nope. Its a by-product.

Economic yes, moral no.


With the added complication that corporations are much more likely to decide that those of us on the left are doing something that isn’t good, because we just happen to be keen on getting in between them and maximising profits. Also, something something merger of state and corporate power.


First of all, I believe this is a good and positive outcome, because the status quo – upload whatever you want, and we won’t police it at all – was clearly wayyy out of control. Allowing only uploads from “verified” accounts (and not anonymous randos) is basically step zero in policing anything.

I do wonder why other forms of payment aren’t considered viable here… like there’s payment via credit card or payment via cryptocurrency and that’s it?