Visa 'Probably' Complicit In Child Pornography By Allowing Charges To Pornhub, Judge Rules

By Eliana Regev | Wednesday, 03 August 2022 05:15
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A federal judge ruled Friday that Visa likely knew it was monetizing child pornography hosted on Pornhub and different sites owned by its parent company, MindGeek, which has faced increased scrutiny amid accusations its sites host videos and photos depicting sexual abuse.

The lawsuit, Fleites v. MindGeek, was filed last Monday in the U.S. District Court Central District of California. The plaintiff, Serene Fleites, alleges that in 2014, when she was 13, Pornhub hosted a sexually explicit video of her titled "13-Year Old Brunette Shows Off For the Camera."

Visa was listed as a defendant in the lawsuit and filed a motion to be dismissed from the litigation. Although, that request was denied by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney.

Fleites allegations that her boyfriend at the time pressured her into making the video before posting it online without her consent. MindGeek posted the video on its other pornography websites, which garnered more than 400,000 views before Fleites discovered it. Pornhub's parent company profited from revenue earned from advertisements that appeared with the video. "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," the lawsuit reads.

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The plaintiff claims in her lawsuit that Visa, one of the world's largest credit card companies, knew that MindGeek's websites contained child pornography and that the company had failed to purge such content.

Despite this knowledge, the lawsuit states that "Visa and its agent banks explicitly agreed with MindGeek to continue to process transactions without restrictions on all MindGeek sites provided MindGeek maintained pretextual window dressing claims that it had technology, processes, and policies in place to prevent such content."

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Judge Carney wrote that Visa knew MindGeek's websites monetized child pornography.

"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," he wrote.

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Visa thinks it should be dismissed from the lawsuit because the case hinges on the actions of MindGeek and the plaintiff's boyfriend at the time. Nevertheless, Carney ruled that the "emotional trauma that Plaintiff suffered flows directly from MindGeek's monetization of her videos."

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"That is where Visa enters the picture in full view, unobscured by the third parties that it attempts to place between itself and Plaintiff," Carney wrote in the ruling.

"The steps that MindGeek took to maximize that monetization. If not for its drive to maximize profit, why would MindGeek allow Plaintiff's first video to be posted despite its title indicating Plaintiff was well below 18 years old?"

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Visa and MindGeek did not immediately react to The Christian Post's request for comment.

In an announcement published Sunday by Variety, a Visa spokesperson said that the company "condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company."

The spokesperson further argued that the ruling misrepresented the company's policies and practices.

"Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity," the spokesperson stated. "We believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case." Furthermore, MindGeek issued a statement expressing confidence that the plaintiff's claims would be dismissed due to lack of merit once the court considered the facts.

"MindGeek has zero tolerance for posting illegal content on its platforms and has instituted the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history," Pornhub's parent company announced in a statement to Variety.

A December 2020 New York Times exposé attracted attention to potential criminality and exploitation on Pornhub, detailing how the website profits from abusive material such as "child rapes" and other horrific "racist and misogynist content."

Following the accusations, Visa and Mastercard declared in December 2020 that they temporarily prevented their cards from being used on Pornhub.

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