Follow the Money: How Visa Props Up Pornhub’s Advertising Revenue

In December 2020, Visa stopped allowing their cards to be used on the Pornhub website. This action was taken in response to a New York Times piece exposing the rampant child sexual abuse material, rape, sex-trafficking, and non-consensually distributed videos on Pornhub. This event caused an enormous splash in the press with multiple news articles exclaiming that Visa “cut ties” with Pornhub.

However, what many do not know is that Visa continues a financial relationship with Pornhub to this day through its advertising portal TrafficJunky—which itself is being exposed for abusive practices in how it deliberately targets ads towards illegal content.

 

TrafficJunky Provides Ad Revenue to Pornhub  

TrafficJunky is the advertising portal owned by MindGeek, Pornhub’s parent company. Although Visa stopped allowing their cards to be used on the Pornhub site itself—such as to buy premium subscriptions—the cards can still be used on TrafficJunky. Ads which are purchased on TrafficJunky using Visa cards can be placed on any MindGeek-owned site, including Pornhub.  

In 2021, MindGeek CEO Feras Antoon stated to a Canadian parliamentary committee:

“We are an ad-supported platform. That’s how we make our revenues. That’s how Pornhub makes its revenues.”

At the time Antoon estimated that about 50% of the company’s revenues come from advertising. The revenue from advertising is several times greater than what it makes through premium subscriptions. In 2018, MindGeek generated $213 million in advertising, and only $52 million in premium subscriptions. What all of this means is that Visa is still providing the infrastructure which brings Pornhub and its parent company its most important source of revenue.

Visa’s Involvement With TrafficJunky is Purposeful 

Visa is not unaware of this. TrafficJunky makes no secret about its relationship with Pornhub; it is touted loudly on the front page of the front page of their website

Screenshot from front page of TrafficJunky website

Furthermore, NCOSE and allies have informed Visa time and again that by continuing their relationship with TrafficJunky, they are providing revenue to Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek. Yet Visa continues this relationship all the same.

TrafficJunky Deliberately Targets Ads Towards Abusive Content 

As if providing ad revenue to sites which host abusive content isn’t enough, TrafficJunky even allows ads to be deliberately and specifically targeted towards abusive content. TrafficJunky’s services allows “keyword targeting.” The way this targeting works is that an advertiser can pick specific keywords people may use to search for pornography on MindGeek sites, and opt to have their ads show up when these keywords are searched.

A recent news article published in the Logic exposed how TrafficJunky allows targeting around keywords that denote child sexual abuse, incest, rape, and other illegal activity. For example, permitted keywords on TrafficJunky include “13yearoldteen,” “not18,” and “momdaughter.” Although TrafficJunky banned the English word for “rape,” this word is still allowed in non-English languages, such as Russian or German. TrafficJunky even permits the Japanese word for “child rape.” 

When The Logic exposed these abusive practices, Mastercard stated that it would investigate its relationship with TrafficJunky, saying:

“We are looking into this further. And, should their controls not fulfill legal or network requirements, we will ensure the bank that connects them to our network takes action to resolve the situation”.

Visa, on the other hand, did not respond to The Logic’s request for comment.  

It’s time for Visa to ask itself why they stopped their cards from being used on the Pornhub website. Is it because they object to the abuse occurring on this platform, and they don’t want their services to facilitate this abuse?

If so, why are they still providing revenue to Pornhub and its parent company through advertising? And why do they continue relationships with MindGeek-owned entities like TrafficJunky, whose practices are indicative of the exact same kinds of abuse?

Visa Deserves Its Spot on the 2022 Dirty Dozen List

Visa’s continued relationship with MindGeek is one of the many reasons why we chose to feature them on our 2022 Dirty Dozen List. Take action here to call on Visa to cut ties with all MindGeek-owned entities and other entities that facilitate sexual abuse and exploitation.

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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