Judge Refuses To Dismiss Visa From PornHub Child Pornography Lawsuit

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A California district judge has ruled that payment giant Visa
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must remain a defendant in a child pornography lawsuit against MindGeek, the owner of multiple porn websites, including Pornhub.

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The case against MindGeek and Visa is brought by Serena Fleites, who was 13-years-old in 2014 when an explicit video of her first appeared on PornHub.com. Fleites’ boyfriend at the time had taken the video and posted it without her consent. MindGeek distributed the video among various websites it owned, earning revenue from advertisements appearing alongside it. Visa is at the center of website transactions, processing payments between advertisers and MindGeek. Fleites alleges that Visa and its agent banks continued to process transactions connected with child pornography despite being aware of the illegal content on MindGeek websites.

Visa’s motion to dismiss hinges upon the argument that Fleites’ injuries are entirely dependent upon the actions of separate parties like MindGeek or her childhood boyfriend. However, the court pointed out that Fleites’ case centers the monetization of illegal videos posted to MindGeek sites. If what Fleites alleges is true, then Visa knowingly took part in the monetization of her abuse.

“That is where Visa enters the picture in full view, unobscured by the third parties that it attempts to place between itself and Plaintiff,” Judge Cormac J. Carney wrote in a decision filed on Friday, July 29. “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.”

In Visa’s motion to dismiss, the company argues that it has no authority to control or edit conduct on MindGeek sites. This argument is undermined by the fact that it has successfully intervened in previous MindGeek operations. After a New York Times article published in 2020 outlined the scope of Pornhub’s child-pornography operations, Visa and Mastercard
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suspended business with Pornhub. Shortly after, Pornhub removed 10 million unverified videos from its site, over 80% of its content. Months later, Visa restored services for paid premium subscriptions and advertising on other MindGeek sites, according to the lawsuit. In his refusal to dismiss the case against the payment processor, Carney writes, “Visa quite literally did force MindGeek to operate differently, and markedly so, at least for a time.”

In a Twitter thread outlining the case, Pershing Square CEO Bill Ackman highlighted the potential personal liability Visa directors may have in this case. What are known as Caremark claims are recognized in Delaware, where Visa is incorporated, which allow claims to be brought against corporate directors if a company’s service causes harm and board members have not made a good-faith effort to oversee operations. While the current case does not name individual board members as defendants, there is potential for future litigation.

“Visa condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values ​​and purpose as a company,” a Visa spokesperson said in a statement to Forbes, “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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Credit: www.forbes.com /

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