Explained: Mastercard’s new regulation for adult content sellers and its impact


The feud between companies offering financial services, like Mastercard and Visa, and platforms offering adult content has been brewing for a long time. However, it took a drastic turn last week when Mastercard decided to update the requirements it places on banks that process payments for sellers of adult content.

In April, Mastercard announced new regulations on “specialty merchants” that would come into effect on October 15. Explaining the change, the company blamed smartphones and fast Wi-Fi for making it easy to upload images – something that has been around for a decade now.

So what are the new regulations imposed by Mastercard?

The new rules will now force platforms and creators to comply with more stringent documentation and moderation requirements. Banks will now need to ensure that sellers require “clear, unambiguous and documented consent” in adult content, the payments network said in a blog post on Wednesday. Businesses will also be required to ensure that websites document the age and verify the identity of anyone depicted in the images and videos as well as those who download the content.

For example, Mastercard will now only do business with creators of adult content if all content members provide documentation that they agree to appear in the material, have it distributed, and make it available for download. Platforms that host live content like camera shows need to be able to watch the streams and stop or block them using automated tools. Mastercard also required that all content be reviewed by platform moderators before it was posted to the site; and traders will need to provide moderation reports on a monthly basis.

Mastercard is also asking banks to ensure that sites have a review process before posting any content, as well as a complaints system that addresses illegal or non-consensual activity within seven business days. The payment network is also forcing banks to ensure that sites have an appeal process that allows anyone depicted in adult videos or photos to request removal of the content.

How did it all start?

The measures come after Mastercard, Visa and Discover announced in December that they no longer authorizes the use of their cards on Pornhub after a review of the website uncovers illegal content. This followed allegations of sex trafficking on the platform of an opinion piece in The New York Times.

“Over the past few years, the ability to download content from the Internet has become easier than ever,” said John Verdeschi, senior vice president of customer engagement and performance at Mastercard, via a blog post. “All anyone needs is a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection. Now our demands are on the risks associated with this activity.

Mastercard has long banned merchants from engaging in illegal activity on its network. The firm has already forged partnerships with groups like Interpol and national and international centers for missing and exploited children.

“We are committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that only lawful activities take place on our network,” said Verdeschi. This happens despite the fact that Mastercard is the trademark card of Cabelas, a store that sells a range of assault weapons.

In August, Onlyfans, the subscriber-based social media platform, announced that it would prohibit explicit content of its platform in early October – a decision he has reversed after the uproar from users. Onlyfans founder Tim Stokely had said in an interview that the site was already fully compliant with the new Mastercard rules and the new regulations had nothing to do with the ban. He, however, blamed discrimination against banks, including Bank of New York Mellon, JP Morgan Chase and UK-based Metro Bank, for closing their accounts and the accounts of sex workers.

Adult sites have already started alerting users to changes to their terms in light of Mastercard’s new regulations. Porn site iWantClips has sent creators an email warning them of changes to content review policies to comply with the new rules. These changes include a lag in the time it takes for new content to appear on the site for the platform to review the content, an even longer time frame for any content that includes more than one person, and a review process for the content. inherited. “Repeated breaches of non-compliance can result in your store shutting down permanently,” the email read.

The history of financial institutions’ discrimination against sex workers

Banks have historically discriminated against the adult industry, from platforms to individual sex workers. Many payment processors, such as PayPal, refuse to do business with sex workers altogether because they are considered too “high risk” to be accepted as customers. Banks are required to file Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs, when they suspect something is wrong with the money coming in – wire transfers that go unaccounted for, transferring money to and from countries where it doesn’t make sense to do that, and anything that might look like money laundering. In one of those SARs, Banking Major Wells Fargo had said: Information found regarding customer activities and the illicit nature of these businesses, which are international and may operate in areas where minor children and other vulnerable people may be compelled to provide services, AMLI [Anti-Money Laundering Initiative] found the specified outgoing bank transfer activity to be suspicious. It is this mention of minors that is also common in the explanation of Mastercard and Visa banning Pornhub. There are, of course, many types of crime and abuse occurring in and around the adult industry, but it’s not limited to this industry alone. Children as young as six work in dangerous mines to extract the minerals that power our smartphones. Since last year, consumer goods from Apple, Microsoft, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and others have been manufactured by prisoners in re-education camps in China, according to an in-depth report by a group of Australian thinking. .

The impact

Sex workers and activists have tried to raise awareness of these policies and pressure Mastercard to reconsider them. By September, around 1,500 sex workers, sex educators and other stakeholders signed a letter calling on Mastercard to stop changing the rules and consider that the new regulations would cause more harm and vulnerability to marginalized women workers.

“Payment processors should not dictate platform content moderation policies. Mastercard’s proposal will lead to more violence and discrimination against vulnerable people, not less, ”Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement. “If they go ahead with this proposal and refuse to even stop to listen to more stakeholders, they are actually saying that acceptance doesn’t matter to them. They throw LGBTQ + communities, human rights and marginalized people under the bus. Full stop, ”the statement added.

The group further said that policies that impact queer sex workers also impact all queer content creators, from comic book artists and game makers to sex educators and academics. “All of society suffers from restrictions on consensual sexuality and speech, increased surveillance and misdirection of resources that should help the most vulnerable,” said Greer.

Likewise, another Sex Workers Outreach Project Behind Bars platform, while calling it a “war” against sex workers, said such decisions would force more sex workers to stay on the sidelines. “We say ‘war on sex workers’ because the damage they cause doesn’t have as much of an impact on work as it affects workers who depend on the Pornhub platform for a living.” , he writes. “Violence against sex workers includes the societal and institutional violence that has led to the shutdown of our online platforms which give us a measure of security and allow us the critical resource which is the ability to access banking services.”

Additionally, while sometimes flawed, most adult platforms already have strict policies for moderation and documentation of consent in place. Non-adult sites, like Facebook and Instagram, report a much higher amount of abusive content than adult sites, but do not receive the same scrutiny as sites that host adult content. For example, an annual report from the nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said that Facebook alone reported around 20 million cases of child sexual abuse in 2020. Snapchat, by comparison, reported more of 144,000 cases and Twitter, over 65,000. Microsoft arrived at 96,776, which includes Github, Skype, Azure cloud service and Xbox.

Porn artists have long faced discriminatory payment practices and the removal of platforms, but have always found a way around them to continue their work. However, when the biggest credit card companies crack down so fiercely, they are further marginalized.

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