Mastercard Says Banks Must Show ‘Documented Consent’ For Adult Content Following Pornhub Controversy

April 16, 2021 Updated: April 16, 2021

MasterCard on April 14 announced it is changing its rules and standards for banks that process payments for sellers of adult content.

The company announced the new rules in a blog post on Wednesday and said that banks will now have to ensure that sellers require “clear, unambiguous and documented consent” in adult content.

“This month, we are extending our existing Specialty Merchant Registration requirements. The banks that connect merchants to our network will need to certify that the seller of adult content has effective controls in place to monitor, block and, where necessary, take down all illegal content,” John Verdeschi, Mastercard’s senior vice president of customer engagement and performance, said in the post.

The firms will also be required to ensure websites document the age and verify the identity of anyone depicted in pictures and videos as well as those uploading the content.

Other requirements will include “content review process prior to publication; complaint resolution process that addresses illegal or nonconsensual content within seven business days; and appeals process allowing for any person depicted to request their content be removed.”

The new rules come after MasterCard announced on Dec. 10 last year that it will no longer allow their cards to be used to process payments on pornographic website Pornhub following accusations it showed videos of child sexual abuse.

Visa promptly suspended use of its cards on Pornhub pending an investigation, while American Express had already blacklisted the website, as well as Paypal.

Pornhub, which is owned by Montreal-based company Mindgeek, came under fire after The New York Times reported that the website hosts unlawful content, including nonconsensual pornography and videos of child sexual assault.

In a statement to The Associated Press Pornhub denied the allegations, calling them “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.”

However, the website later pledged to crack down on illegal content and said it will only allow properly identified users to upload content.

It also removed its download function, which meant removed content could easily resurface, and announced that it will be employing a new team of moderators solely to self-auditing the platform for potentially illegal material.

“In the past few years, the ability to upload content to the internet has become easier than ever,” Verdeschi said in Wednesday blog post. “All someone needs is a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection. Now, our requirements address the risks associated with this activity.”

Mastercard has previously forged relationships with law enforcement and other groups like Interpol, Europol, the National and International Centers for Missing and Exploited Children, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, and the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies, among others.

On Wednesday, it announced new partnerships with the Internet Watch Foundation and We Protect Global Alliance.

“We’re committed to doing everything in our power to ensure only lawful activity takes place on our network,” Verdeschi said. “In the process, we also hope to improve content controls to benefit people with the greatest need for these protections.”

Exodus Cry, a non-profit advocacy organization seeking the abolition of the legal commercial sex industry, welcomed Mastercard’s announcement on Thursday, calling it a “historic move.”

“Mastercard is now effectively leading the charge in pushing partner businesses to hold porn sites accountable for the content they host and profit from,” the organization wrote in a Facebook post.