Judge Allows Visa to Be Included in Child Pornography Lawsuit - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Judge Allows Visa to Be Included in Child Pornography Lawsuit
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A person holds a cell phone featuring MindGeek's website in front of the company's logo (T. Schneider/Shutterstock).

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney refused to remove Visa from a lawsuit alleging that the credit card company helped pornography giant MindGeek profit from child pornography. Carney concluded in a 33-page decision that “the Court can comfortably infer that Visa intended to help MindGeek monetize child porn.” Carney dismissed a separate section of the plaintiff’s lawsuit as Visa was not directly involved in the physical trafficking of the plaintiff.

Carney’s decision presents a damning indictment of Visa’s involvement in MindGeek’s monetization of videos showing the sexual abuse of minors. Pershing Square hedge fund CEO Bill Ackman called Visa’s conduct “inexcusable” and said that the company is facing “incalculable financial and reputational damage” as a result of the lawsuit.

Visa has continued processing transactions for advertising purposes on MindGeek’s Pornhub Premium along with other websites.

Serena Fleites, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, was victimized at 13 years old when her boyfriend pressured her into sending him a nude video of herself and uploaded it to Pornhub, one of MindGeek’s numerous websites. Fleites posed as her mother to demand MindGeek remove the video. MindGeek only removed the video weeks later. During that time, viewers downloaded and reuploaded the video numerous times. When Fleites attempted to have these videos removed without impersonating her mother, a MindGeek representative specifically demanded “photographic proof that she was the child depicted in the video” before they could remove it. Fleites suffered from harassment at school by her classmates who had seen the video and eventually quit attending class before attempting suicide. An older man later sold additional explicit underage images of her on Craigslist, some of which were also uploaded to MindGeek-run sites. During this time, MindGeek continued to profit from videos featuring Fleites and other minors.

Fleites’ contends that Visa knew child pornography was present on MindGeek’s platform and still chose to conduct business with the company anyway. This is backed up by PayPal’s November 2019 decision to cease processing transactions for MindGeek because it was unwilling to employ its “services for the sale of materials that depict criminal behavior.” Meanwhile, Visa continued to process payments even after receiving numerous emails from anti-trafficking advocates about illegal content on MindGeek’s websites and conducting reviews of MindGeek-affiliated sites. It was only when the New York Times published an article in December 2020 that aroused significant public opposition to Pornhub and MindGeek over the proliferation of child pornography on MindGeek’s sites that Visa temporarily suspended services, which prompted Pornhub to remove 80 percent of its videos.

Visa has pleaded ignorance of the sexual abuse material on MindGeek. It stated that it has no involvement in the maintenance of MindGeek’s websites” and decisions regarding the website “were made by MindGeek without input from Visa.” Carney dismissed this contention by noting that Fleites alleged that Visa “continued to recognize MindGeek as a merchant with knowledge of its illicit nature,” something Visa failed to acknowledge in its attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.

While Visa has attempted to downplay its involvement with monetizing the illegal content, MindGeek has taken a more militant approach to dealing with individuals and activist groups who call attention to their propagation of child pornography. MindGeek Vice President Corey Urman used pseudonyms to attack his opponents in the press, denouncing anti-trafficking activist Laila Mickelwait for making “intentionally misleading” claims about MindGeek websites. Urman also wrote in Business Insider under a pseudonym to allege that Pornhub “immediately removes illegal content when notified,” which Fleites’ case reveals to be demonstrably untrue.

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