Judge: Visa May Be Complicit in Child Porn

News: US News
by Paul Aubert  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 4, 2022   

Payment processor had ability to restrict monetization

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

UPDATE (8/5/2022) - Credit companies Visa and Mastercard have stopped processing payments to TrafficJunky, which advertises for porn conglomerate MindGeek. The announcement follows the decision by a federal judge to allow a case against Visa and MindGeek to move forward.

***

SANTA ANA, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A case alleging the credit company Visa facilitated the spread of child pornography may proceed, per the order of a federal judge.

Image
Judge Cormac J. Carney

Judge Cormac J. Carney of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, on Friday, denied Visa's motion to dismiss a case that alleges the payment processor was knowingly profiting off of illegal sexual content on various internet pornography sites owned by MindGeek.

It is possible to infer "Visa's agreement to financially benefit from child porn" from "its decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant, despite allegedly knowing that MindGeek monetized a substantial amount of child porn on its websites," Carney wrote in his order.

The lawsuit against MindGeek and Visa was filed by Serena Fleites last year. Fleites alleges that in 2014, when she was 13 years old, her then-boyfriend posted sexual content of her to a pornography site operated by MindGeek.

The video was distributed across MindGeek's entire array of sites, meaning the company cashed in on advertising revenue. Visa's role in the matter involved payment processing of the ad revenue the explicit video brought in. The video was viewed 400,000 times and titled "13-Year-Old Brunette Shows Off for the Camera."

Mic'd Up Report: MindGeek
 

Fleites argues Visa processed transactions that involved child pornography of her while knowing MindGeek sites may have illegal content on them. Visa's role in payment processing helped continue her child abuse, Fleites contests. 

After the video surfaced online, Fleites claims she was harassed and bullied by peers, attempted suicide and developed a drug addiction.

Visa pushed the court to dismiss Fleites' claims against it, arguing that any harm was inflicted by her then-boyfriend and the sites operated by MindGeek.

The video was distributed across MindGeek's entire array of sites.

"The emotional trauma that Plaintiff suffered flows directly from MindGeek's monetization of her videos and the steps that MindGeek took to maximize that monetization," Judge Carney wrote, noting, "Visa lent to MindGeek a much-needed tool — its payment network — with the alleged knowledge that there was a wealth of monetized child porn on MindGeek's websites."

Carney's analysis may force large corporations to take responsibility and be held accountable for their facilitation of certain crimes.

The pornography website company MindGeek and the credit company Visa could ultimately be found culpable for the monetization of child porn, Carney suggested

"It does not strike the Court as fatally speculative to say that Visa — with knowledge of what was being monetized and authority to withhold the means of monetization — [could bear] direct responsibility (along with MindGeek) for MindGeek's monetization of child porn, and, in turn, the monetization of Plaintiff's videos," stated Carney. 

Free clip from CHURCH MILITANT Premium

A Visa spokesman released a statement expressing disappointment in the judge's ruling: 

Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company. This pretrial ruling is disappointing and mischaracterizes Visa's role and its policies and practices. Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity. We continue to believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case. 

In 2020, Visa and Mastercard suspended payment processing with MindGeek's Pornhub site after a New York Times article exposed an excessive amount of explicit content involving rape or child abuse on the platform.

Soon after its exposure, Pornhub decided to remove 10 million unverified videos from its site, amounting to 80% of its content. Judge Carney referenced this event in his ruling: "Visa quite literally did force MindGeek to operate differently, and markedly so, at least for a time."

Soon after its exposure, Pornhub decided to remove 10 million videos from its site.

Months after the site's removal of all the unverified content, Visa restored its payment processing and advertising services.

Some are calling for Visa to adopt similar tactics once again.

"Visa tomorrow could shut down MindGeek," billionaire Bill Ackman remarked on CNBC.

Ackman believes Visa is complicit in harm to young, vulnerable children who have had disgusting, abusive and illegal things done to them. He further believes this is one of the most egregious corporate governance failures he's witnessed, resulting in grave damage to many.

It's reported that Ackman "philanthropically" offered financial backing for this lawsuit (and others) against Visa.

The billionaire tweeted, "Think 10m++ videos of child porn and the destruction to the untold number of lives this has caused."

Image
CEO of Visa Alfred Kelly

He called on Alfred Kelly, the CEO of Visa, to take concrete steps to end its involvement in sex trafficking or child abuse. Ackman noted how Kelly "waxes eloquent in his annual letter about Visa's 'noble' purpose, commitment to an 'inclusive economy' and 'economic opportunity for all.'"

But Ackman slammed Visa for its hypocrisy: "He then trumpets the hiring of a chief diversity officer in May 2021, reporting directly to him. Mr. Kelly should know that the majority of child trafficking victims are from lower-income families, including Black and Brown families."

Just last month, both the CEO and COO of MindGeek resigned suddenly. A MindGeek spokesman claims the resignations were unrelated to any criminal accusations the company has faced.

--- Campaign 31877 ---

 

Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.


We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on ChurchMilitant.com you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines