Pornhub: victim of Visa and Mastercard censorship or money laundering risk? – The Property Chronicle
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Pornhub: victim of Visa and Mastercard censorship or money laundering risk?

The Economist

Pornhub, the world’s largest aggregator of pornographic videos, has been cut off from accepting credit cards. The company is only accepting cryptocurrency for its premium service at present. 

It happened quickly. On 4 December, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof accused Pornhub of being “infested with rape videos”. Kristof went on to accuse the site of monetising “child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags”.

By 10 December, Mastercard and Visa had banned the use of their credit cards on Pornhub. “Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site,” said Mastercard in a statement.

In an article criticising the Pornhub deplatforming, the EFF’s Danny O’Brien and Rainey Reitman worry about the power that Visa and Mastercard exercise over what we can watch. “Any website or individual can find itself running afoul of Visa and Mastercard’s moral sensibilities and shut off from receiving online payments,” they write. These financial chokepoints have become a sort of “undemocratic hand” that is levered by moral crusaders to censor their targets.

The public discussion reached a sufficiently loud decibel that it was no longer possible for Visa or Mastercard to just say ‘we didn’t know’

Censorship by Mastercard and Visa worries me. These are oligopolies, after all. Being capriciously cut off could mean the death of an online business. But I don’t think that the Pornhub example is symptomatic of a broken system. If anything, I’d suggest that it’s an example of the system working.

Child pornography is morally wrong. It is also illegal. Surely Mastercard and Visa don’t have the obligation to let payments for illegal goods and services flow across their networks.

The Economist

About J.P. Koning

J.P. Koning is a financial writer and blogger with interests in monetary economics, economic history, finance, and fintech. He has worked as an equity researcher at a Canadian brokerage firm and a financial writer and publisher at a large Canadian bank. More recently, he has written several papers for R3, a distributed ledger company, on the topics of central bank cryptocurrency and cross border payments. He founded the popular blog Moneyness in 2012. He designs economics and financial wallcharts at Financial Graph & Art.

Articles by J.P. Koning

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