Judge Refuses Visa’s Request to Escape Pornhub Child Pornography Lawsuit

By Danielle Jarvis
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A judge has accused Visa of refusing to cut business ties with MindGeek after the company was accused of processing payments for child pornography on Pornhub.

In a decision issued July 29th, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney accused the payment processor of refusing to cut business ties with MindGeek, the owner of Pornhub, despite being aware that Pornhub and other MindGeek-owned pornography sites distributed child pornography.

The lawsuit was filed by a woman whose underage videos were posted on Pornhub without her permission.

“Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn,” wrote U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, in the Fleites v. MindGeek lawsuit

“When MindGeek decides to monetize child porn, and Visa decides to continue to allow its payment network to be used for that goal despite knowledge of MindGeek’s monetization of child porn, it is entirely foreseeable that victims of child porn like plaintiff will suffer the harms that plaintiff alleges.”

The judge denied Visa’s request to be dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“If Visa was aware that there was a substantial amount of child porn on MindGeek’s sites, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, then it was aware that it was processing the monetization of child porn, moving money from advertisers to MindGeek for advertisements playing alongside child porn like Plaintiff’s videos,” wrote Judge Carney.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has commended the judge’s ruling finding that a child sexual abuse survivor’s lawsuit against Visa for enabling her abuse to be monetized on Pornhub will be allowed to proceed.

“A child’s sexual abuse was posted to Pornhub, and in a landmark decision, a judge is allowing Visa to be sued for profiting from her abuse. Visa continued to process payments for Pornhub and other MindGeek-owned websites, even after it was aware of the widespread abuses occurring on Pornhub. It is right that Visa should be held responsible for its role in child sex trafficking on Pornhub,” said Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

“We first brought evidence of child sexual abuse material and sex trafficking on Pornhub to Visa’s attention in early 2020. Despite the fact that Visa opened an investigation into Pornhub at NCOSE’s urging, it wasn’t until the New York Times published its December 2020 exposé revealing child sexual abuse material proliferates on the site that Visa finally acted to cut ties with Pornhub.

“Despite NCOSE continuing to send Visa details throughout 2021 and 2022 about child sexual abuse material, sex trafficking and other abuses by MindGeek – as well as offering to connect Visa with survivors – Visa reinstated its relationship with Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, and continues to process payments for other exploitative sites. Visa also processes advertisement purchases through MindGeek-owned TrafficJunky. Advertising is estimated to make up 50% of MindGeek’s revenue.

“The judge’s ruling is a significant victory for the child sexual abuse survivor, and it also opens the door for other survivors to receive justice for similar crimes. Let this serve as a warning to Visa and others in the financial services industry: you cannot enable and profit from child sexual abuse and sex trafficking without facing the full extent of the law,” Hawkins said.

NCOSE’s UK-based subsidiary, the International Centre on Sexual Exploitation, along with 62 survivors and advocates representing eleven countries, sent a March 2021 letter to Visa requesting it cut ties with all MindGeek-owned entities.

Visa is on the 2022 Dirty Dozen List of mainstream contributors to sexual exploitation.

Meanwhile, just last week, adult website operator Matthew Isaac Wolfe pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to fraudulently coerce young women to appear in sex videos on the GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys websites.

Wolfe pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara L. Major to Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud and Coercion, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1594. Wolfe, the fourth defendant to plead guilty in connection with the case, admitted that he moved to the United States in 2011 to work for his friend and co-defendant Michael Pratt, the owner of the GirlsDoPorn website.

In June 2021, former GirlsDoPorn producer Andre Garcia was given a 20-year prison sentence for sex trafficking.