Judge Rules It’s Reasonable to Infer That Visa Intended to Help Pornhub Monetize Child Porn: Lawsuit

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.
August 1, 2022 Updated: August 1, 2022

A federal judge ruled Friday that it is reasonable to infer that payment processor Visa knowingly helped Pornhub “monetize child porn” and denied its motion to dismiss the claim that it violated California’s Unfair Competition Law.

District Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California wrote in his ruling on July 29 that “Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn.”

Montreal-based company Mindgeek is Pornhub’s parent company.

It knew of this fact, the judge said, “from its own due diligence and discussions and negotiations with MindGeek” as well as PayPal’s decision to cease doing business with MindGeek, along with an article published by The New York Times in December 2020 titled: “The Children of Pornhub: Why does Canada allow this company to profit off videos of exploitation and assault?”

The lawsuit against MindGeek and Visa was filed last year by Serena Fleites; a young woman who claims her life was shattered after a naked video of herself that she was pressured into sending to her then-boyfriend ended up on Pornhub while she was still in middle school.

The video was posted without her knowledge or consent.

Shortly after The New York Times reported that the website was hosting unlawful content, including nonconsensual pornography and videos of child sexual assault, Visa suspended processing payments on Pornhub.

Fleites’s attorneys allege in her lawsuit that Visa “explicitly agreed with MindGeek to process the financial transactions from which the defendants profited from the [sex trafficking] venture.”

Life-Destroying

Her attorneys argue that the video destroyed her life, with the lawsuit stating that “While MindGeek profited from the child porn featuring plaintiff, plaintiff was intermittently homeless or living in her car, addicted to heroin, depressed and suicidal, and without the support of her family.”

Fleites claims that she contacted Pornhub to remove the video, which was allegedly viewed millions of times, but that it took them weeks to remove it, and that it was repeatedly uploaded again.

In his ruling on Friday, Carney held that the plaintiff “adequately alleged” the possibility that Visa’s payment network was used in relation to her videos and that Visa has control over deciding whether to recognize MindGeek as a merchant.

“When MindGeek decides to monetize child porn, and Visa decides to continue to allow its payment network to be used for that goal despite knowledge of MindGeek’s monetization of child porn, it is entirely foreseeable that victims of child porn like [the] plaintiff will suffer the harms that plaintiff alleges,” Carney wrote.

Specifically, the judge noted that “Visa’s agreement to financially benefit from child porn can be inferred from its decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant despite allegedly knowing that MindGeek monetized a substantial amount of child porn on its websites” and that “the court can comfortably infer that Visa intended to help MindGeek monetize child porn from the very fact that Visa continued to provide MindGeek the means to do so and knew MindGeek was indeed doing so.”

‘Visa Condemns Sex Trafficking’

Carney denied Visa’s motion to dismiss the claim that the company violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business practices or false or misleading advertising, by processing payments for child porn.

However, the judge ruled partly in favor of Visa, noting that Fleites “simply has no basis for claiming Visa directly participated in the sex trafficking ventures that harmed her” and ordered that she must provide “a more definite statement with respect to her common law civil conspiracy cause of action against Visa.”

In a statement to The Epoch Times following Friday’s ruling, a Visa spokesperson said: “Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company. This pre-trial ruling is disappointing and mischaracterizes Visa’s role and its policies and practices. Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity. We continue to believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case.”

A spokesperson for MindGeek told Variety in a statement: “At this point in the case, the court has not yet ruled on the veracity of the allegations, and is required to assume all of the plaintiff’s allegations are true and accurate. When the court can actually consider the facts, we are confident the plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed for lack of merit.”

They added that MindGeek has “zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history” while noting that the company has also banned uploads from anyone who has not submitted a government-issued ID that has also passed third-party verification.

The spokesperson also said that MindGeek has “eliminated the ability to download free content, integrated several leading technology platforms and content moderation tools, and instituted digital fingerprinting of all videos found to be in violation of our Non-Consensual Content and [child sexual abuse material],” among other things.

“Any insinuation that MindGeek does not take the elimination of illegal material seriously is categorically false,” the statement added.

The Epoch Times has contacted MindGeek for comment.

Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.