Visa helped Pornhub distribute child porn: judge

A federal judge ruled on Friday that it was reasonable to conclude that Visa knowingly facilitated the distribution of child pornography on Pornhub and other sites operated by parent company MindGeek.

The lawsuit filed last year, Fleites v. MindGeek, alleges that MindGeek was profiting from videos depicting “rape, child sexual exploitation, revenge porn, trafficking, and other nonconsensual sexual content.” Credit card company Visa was implicated in the lawsuit as “knowingly complicit in the sex trafficking and monetized child sexual abuse,” according to Variety.

US District Judge Cormac Carney of the US District Court of the Central District of California issued a decision on July 29 denying Visa’s motion to dismiss the claim that they violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, which prohibits unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business acts and practices, by processing payments for child porn.

“Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn,” Judge Carney wrote in his ruling, finding that the plaintiff “adequately alleged” that Visa engaged in a criminal conspiracy with MindGeek to monetize child pornography.

Carney contended that there was “criminal agreement to financially benefit from child porn that can be inferred from [Visa’s] decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant despite allegedly knowing that MindGeek monetized a substantial amount of child porn,” and that “the court can comfortably infer that Visa intended to help MindGeek monetize child porn” by “knowingly provid[ing] the tool used to complete the crime.”

“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,” Carney wrote.

Lead attorney Michael Bowe representing Fleites in the lawsuit, said “The court’s holding that our detailed complaint adequately pleads Visa was engaged in a criminal conspiracy to monetize child porn means Visa and other credit card companies are finally going to face the civil and perhaps criminal consequences of?? this unconscionable and illegal activity.”

On June 20, a New Yorker report found that Pornhub hosted sexually explicit nonconsensual videos that included videos of children. The plaintiff in the case against MindGeek and Visa is Serena Fleites, who was 13 when a sexually explicit video of her was uploaded to Pornhub by her then-boyfriend.

Judge Carney ruled partly in Visa’s favor stating that Fleites “simply has no basis for claiming Visa directly participated in the sex trafficking ventures that harmed her.” He asked for Fleites to provide “a more definite statement with respect to her common law civil conspiracy cause of action against Visa.”

In response to the Friday decision, a Visa spokesperson said: “Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company. This pre-trial 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.”

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