Visa and Mastercard, the giant payments processing companies, said they would investigate their financial links to MindGeek, the parent company of the adult website Pornhub, after the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reported that the website included videos of child abuse and nonconsensual sexual violence.

Visa said in a statement that it was “actively engaging with the relevant financial institutions” and with MindGeek to investigate the allegations.

Visa, which works with 61 million merchants and moves nearly $12 trillion in money through the financial system in a year, said it was “vigilant” about removing companies doing illegal activity from its network. Banks act as intermediaries between payment companies, such as Visa and Mastercard, and businesses.

“If the site is identified as not complying with applicable laws or the financial institutions’ acceptable use policies and underwriting standards they will no longer be able to accept Visa payments,” the statement said.

Mastercard also said it was investigating the allegations against Pornhub with MindGeek’s bank. “If the claims are substantiated, we will take immediate action,” Mastercard said in a statement. “When we identify illegal activity, our policy is to ask the acquirer to terminate the relationship, unless an effective compliance plan is put in place.”

Nearly seven million videos are posted on Pornhub each year, and while the vast majority of them probably depict consensual acts, many do not, Mr. Kristof wrote. He reported that videos of teenage girls who had been victims of assault and trafficking had been found on the website. “In each case, offenders were arrested for the assaults, but Pornhub escaped responsibility for sharing the videos and profiting from them,” Mr. Kristof wrote.

Pornhub denied the allegations and said it was “unequivocally committed to combating child sexual abuse material, and has instituted a comprehensive, industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community.”

Some other payment companies do not allow their services to be used for adult content sites. American Express has a policy against its cards being used for “adult digital content.”

And PayPal “prohibits all account holders from buying or selling sexually oriented digital goods,” including videos, pictures and subscriptions. Last year, PayPal barred Pornhub, and providers of videos to the site, from making and accepting payments through PayPal. After that, Pornhub added new payment options, including Tether, a blockchain-based cryptocurrency.

Orignially published in NYT.

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