Mastercard Receives Corporate Leadership Award for New Policies

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The financial infrastructure for sites like Pornhub is crashing to the ground.

Mastercard announced innovative new policies to curb sex trafficking, child sexual abuse, and other image-based abuse on all sex industry websites! These new policies give us so much hope, as they center on protecting the most vulnerable and marginalized.

On behalf of thousands of advocates and survivors, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation is proud to award Mastercard with the 2021 Corporate Leadership Award at the CESE Summit!

Read on for more details.

THE WIN!

Mastercard announced that it will now require banks connecting sellers of “adult content” to Mastercard to ensure that the companies meet five standards:

  1. “Clear, unambiguous and documented consent”
  2. “Documented age and identity verification for all people depicted and those uploading the content”
  3. “Content review process prior to publication”
  4. “Complaint resolution process that addresses illegal or nonconsensual content within seven business days”
  5. “Appeals process allowing for any person depicted to request their content be removed”

This is a major step in protecting victims of rape and sex trafficking, including children, and protecting those who are filmed non-consensually or have content uploaded non-consensually.

We expect other finance companies will soon follow Mastercard’s lead.

THE BACKGROUND

Since early 2020, The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has been working with Mastercard to shift the company toward policies that will protect individuals and prevent companies from using their services to profit from abuse and assault.

Our global campaign on credit cards was first highlighted on the front page of the BBC World, and we continued to rally international survivors and experts from 26 countries to call on the payment industry and other mainstream companies to stop supporting the infrastructure of Pornhub (and its owner MindGeek) due to their facilitation of sex trafficking, child sexual abuse, and other non-consensual materials (Learn more about the problems with Pornhub/MindGeek.)

Over the last two years, NCOSE and other survivors and advocates have worked tirelessly to bring survivor voices, research, and facts as confirmed in government investigations to Mastercard (and others’) attention. The following is a recent timeline of events sparked by the reality of abuse material on Pornhub.

  • February 2020 – The BBC wrote a groundbreaking article detailing the experience of survivor Rose Kalemba whose underage sexual assault was uploaded to Pornhub. Survivors of similar abuses uploaded to Pornhub began speaking out on Twitter more than ever before.
  • February 2020 – NCOSE sent a letter to Mastercard alerting them to the cases of abusive and criminal content on Pornhub as well as similar sites, and noting the systemic lack of age and consent verification in the pornography “tube” industry.
  • May 2020 – NCOSE organized a joint international letter with signees from Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Denmark, England, India, Ireland, Liberia, Scotland, Sweden, Uganda, United States of America to 10 major credit card companies, including the “Big Three”, Visa, MasterCard and American Express. This letter made it clear that it is impossible to “judge or verify consent in any videos on their site, let alone live webcam videos” which “inherently makes pornography websites a target for sex traffickers, child abusers, and others sharing predatory nonconsensual videos”.
  • April 2020 – NCOSE Vice President, Haley McNamara, met virtually with a Mastercard executive to discuss the global concerns raised in the joint letter. · By September 2020 – The global #Traffickinghub petition run by Laila Mickelwait surpassed 2 million signatures, calling for Pornhub to be shut down. Mickelwait also separately spoke with Mastercard executives. · December 2020 – Nicholas Kristof wrote a powerful op-ed in the New York Times, giving voice to multiple survivors who had videos of their abuse uploaded to Pornhub.
  • December 2020 – Mastercard, and then Visa and Discover, temporarily blocked the use of their credit cards on Pornhub due to their concerns about its abuse and exploitation leading Pornhub to remove 11,000,000 non-verified porn/exploitation videos from its site in an effort to restore partnerships with these credit cards.
  • January 2021 – NCOSE VP again met virtually with Mastercard, along with Collective Shout from Australia for further updates from international perspectives.
  • February 2021 – NCOSE organized a private briefing for Mastercard executives to hear from survivors of the pornography industry as well as other experts who spoke on the use of Pornhub and other “tube” pornography websites by sex traffickers, the rampant racism on these sites, and the harms to performers in the industry.

Mastercard’s investigation concluded that there was enough evidence of criminal conduct and rampant non-consensual abuse content. On April 16 2021 Mastercard announced its new policies for “strong content control measures and clear, unambiguous and documented consent.

Corporations are Finally Waking Up

This is a HISTORIC VICTORY and it is not an anomaly. The entire financial industry is waking up to the abuses on pornography websites.

American Express has long rejected processing for the porn industry, PayPal cut off MindGeek completely, and Visa and Discover credit cards have paused payments for Pornhub amid the revelations of it facilitating abuse. Further after a New York Times piece by Nicholas Kristof was published on April 16th, PayPal contacted the columnist to let him know they would also no longer be allowing their payment processing platform to be used to purchase advertising on XVideos or related pornography sites, effective immediately.

REMAINING CONCERNS

While the steps taken by Mastercard are major and essential to fighting sexual exploitation, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation would like to see Mastercard cut ties with the pornography industry entirely as American Express did long ago. We know the harms of pornography to the public, children in particular, and to those in the industry. We can’t, as a society, continue to line the pockets of those capitalizing on this harm or continue to normalize the industry by upholding it.

We’d also like to know more about Mastercard’s implementation of their new policies. How are they going to guarantee that banks aren’t processing payments for bad actors? Who will assume these new, pivotal responsibilities? We’d like a transparency report to be available on a regular basis to the public on how the company is ensuring merchants comply and on any outcomes related to the policies.


TAKE ACTION NOW – Urge Visa to Follow Suit

The Visa financial services corporation remains on the 2021 Dirty Dozen Watchlist. Visa initially paused processing payments on Pornhub and banned “some transactions” on XVideos, which is being investigated for similar problems—which we commended. However, Visa has re-initiated some relationship with MindGeek (the owner of Pornhub) and has failed to take a more serious approach to the sexual abuse transactions they’re helping to facilitate on these pornography websites.

We call on Visa to cut ties with sexually exploitive industries for good. Learn more and take action here.

It's time for @Visa to stop processing payments for sexual exploitation, including the pornography industry, sugar dating websites, and brothels. Click To Tweet
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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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