Pornhub, Visa, and Mastercard: What Exactly Happened?

Pornhub, Visa, and Mastercard: What Exactly Happened?

The news that Visa and Mastercard both stopped payments to Pornhub hit international headlines in December 2020. The two payment processing companies didn’t take the decision to stop these payments from nowhere.

The decision by Visa and Mastercard to pull services from Pornhub came on the back of a story published by the New York Times on December 4th 2020. The story lit a fire under Pornhub and drew attention to the industry, particularly user-generated content.

Let’s take a look at a timeline of events that led to this decision to “defund Pornhub” and look at some of the implications.

Update: Since this article was initially published, both payment processors have stopped processing payments from advertisers for PornHub and it’s parent company, MindGeek. We’ll cover the details in the timeline.

October 28th 2018 – Girl’s family post videos on Pornhub

Californian teacher Dawn Giannini was arrested for raping a 14-year-old relative and posting the resulting videos on Pornhub. The videos were found by one of Giannini’s former students and reported to the authorities who held her on 24 felony charges.

In January 2020, the 49-year-old was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for her crimes.

October 24th 2019 – Missing girl found on Pornhub

Around Christmas 2018, a 16-year-old girl went missing from her Florida home. Although she was sighted with a pair of men outside a local 7-Eleven weeks later, she didn’t call home or make any contact with her parents.

Nearly a year later, the girl’s mother was told by classmates of her daughter they had found her, in videos on Pornhub among other video-hosting sites. After taking the evidence to the police, 30-year-old Christopher Johnson has been arrested for his crimes and awaits conviction.

November 13th 2019 – PayPal pulls out of Pornhub

PayPal used to be the way that most of the registered creators on Pornhub got paid. The website had even sung the praises of PayPal as a banking alternative in a blog from 2018, which has since been taken down.

However, the online payments company abruptly decided to stop offering services to Pornhub. In a statement to The Verge, PayPal said “Pornhub has made certain business payments through PayPal without seeking our permission. We have taken action to stop these transactions from occurring.”

December 4th 2020 – “The Children of Pornhub”

Journalist Nicholas Kristof published to the New York Times blog an opinion piece about the presence of child pornography on Pornhub. Child sex tapes weren’t the only accusation leveled at Pornhub – reports of rape videos, non-consensual violence, and revenge porn were made and backed up by Kristof.

In his piece, he asserted that Pornhub was now “…infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags”.

The article spoke to numerous women who had sexual content they’d made for partners when they were just 14 uploaded onto Pornhub. Other women had their experiences of being trafficked published on the site.

One of the recurring themes was the re-emergence of videos multiple times, even after having the content of them as teens under the age of consent removed. This has been put down to the option to download content off Pornhub, allowing for content to be uploaded countless times.

December 7th 2020 – Investigation into Pornhub by payment companies

After taking the weekend to think about it, both Visa and Mastercard started the week by announcing separate investigations into whether they wanted to do business with Pornhub.

A statement from Visa read, “If the site is identified as not complying with applicable laws… they will no longer be able to accept Visa payments.”

Mastercard’s statement said, “If the claims are substantiated, we will take immediate action.”

December 10th 2020 – Visa bans Pornhub payments

In response to the investigations prompted by the New York Times, payment processing company Visa instructed partners to no longer work with Pornhub. In a pair of Tweets on December 10, the company pointed to “illegal activity” on Pornhub as their reason for ending their payment acceptance.

Visa response to pornhub

On the same day, Mastercard took the same actions, for much the same reasons. In a statement, the firm said, “Our investigation over the past several days has confirmed violations of our standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site. We instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance.”

“Exceptionally disappointing” was the response from Pornhub.

December 11th 2020 – No more Pornhub for Discover

Following in the footsteps of its two bigger rivals, Discover stopped processing payments to Pornhub, too. The US-based card company released an email a day after Visa and Mastercard confirming their move.

December 14th 2020 – Pornhub pulls content

Pornhub takes action to remove all content from the site that isn’t made by partner content creators or verified models. In a statement that was Tweeted the same day, the company said:

“This means every piece of Pornhub content is from verified uploaders, a requirement that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter have yet to institute. At Pornhub, the safety of our community is our top priority.”

pornhub statement
Pornhub’s statement in full

Content on the site reduced dramatically. Before the changes, it was reported there were around 13 million videos to search. Following the changes, a little over 3 million videos were being hosted on Pornhub.

2021 – The Demonetization of Pornhub

Once payments could no longer be processed for model tips, custom requests, or subscription content, Pornhub pivoted. Through 2021 and up to August 2022, all earnings on the platform were generated from advertising revenue.

Creators would get paid a cut of the ad revenue based on how many times their content was viewed. It’s a similar model to how YouTube pays creators and although models saw their earnings drop, the bigger creators were able to still make a reasonable income.

It’s no surprise, though, that the loss of earnings from Pornhub gave a boost to sites like OnlyFans. There are plenty of people who are keen to pay for porn and subscription sites filled some of that void.

June 18th 2022 – Pornhub’s owner and Visa sued

In June 2022, the parent company of Pornhub, MindGeek, owned by a reclusive millionaire called Bernd Bergmair, was sued by a group of 34 plaintiffs. Visa was also named as a co-defendent in the case.

The documents state that the defendants are being pursued under trafficking, racketeering, and false advertising laws. In the paperwork, it also states that 50% of MindGeek’s revenue comes directly from advertising.

July 29th 2022 – Visa fails to get removed from the lawsuit

Visa tried – and failed – to get their name removed from the court case. The company claimed that they weren’t directly involved in harming the people bringing the case to court.

August 4th 2022 – Visa and Mastercard stop advertising payments for Pornhub

Normal porn buyers have been barred from making purchases from Pornhub for nearly two years, but the site was still getting paid.

As the court case noted, more than half of MindGeek’s income comes from advertisers, and this is filtered through the advertising arm called Traffic Junky. To pry the companies even further away from the business, both Visa and Mastercard announced on August 4th 2022 that they would no longer process advertising payments.

Pornhub, Mastercard, and Visa

Although it’s clear there has been illegal content on Pornhub for many years, it has taken the withdrawal of most ways to get paid for Pornhub to act. There are numerous accounts from women who have successfully been able to have unauthorised and illegal content featuring them removed – there’s no doubt Pornhub has been aware there are issues on their site.

The future of monetization on the site looks shaky at best. Creators are already noticing a huge drop in earnings since the start of August.

We will continue to update this article as the news develops to help keep our creators informed of changes to one of the biggest players in the industry.

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