Visa “intended to help monetize child pornography,” a federal judge ruled on Friday on a case relating to Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek, which is facing allegations that it knowingly hosted child pornography.
“Visa knew that MindGeek’s websites were teeming with monetized child porn,” wrote U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney of the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California on Friday, in the Fleites v. MindGeek lawsuit.
“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,” the judge wrote. The judge denied Visa's request to be dismissed as a defendant in the lawsuit.
As detailed by the Dispatch, child pornography survivor Serena Fleites filed a lawsuit alleging MindGeek violated federal sex trafficking and child pornography laws.
The Dispatch reported:
Fleites’s story is horrifying. As recounted by the court, when she was 13 years old, her boyfriend pressured her into making a nude video. Without her knowledge or consent, he uploaded it to Pornhub, where it was posted under the title, “13-Year Old Brunette Shows off For the Camera.”
MindGeek not only hosted the video, it transferred that same video to other websites it owned. As often happens with pornographic videos, it was downloaded and re-uploaded multiple times, and one of the re-uploads garnered 2.7 million views.
As detailed by the publication, Fleites tried to get the video removed to no avail. When she told MindGeek that the video was child pornography, it took MindGeek weeks to act, during which the video was being downloaded innumerable times.
Fleites' struggle to get the video scrubbed from MindGeek’s websites was unsuccessful as the video kept being re-uploaded again and again. The company said they would only remove the child porn if she could “provide photographic proof that she was the child depicted in the video.”
“Assuming Plaintiff’s allegations are true,” wrote Judge Carney, “the Court is at a loss to understand why such photographic proof was necessary.”
According to Variety, Fleites’ lead attorney, Michael Bowe, 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.”
The judge denied Visa’s motion to dismiss the claim that the company violated California’s Unfair Competition Law, which bans false advertising and illegal business practices, which hosting child pornography would certainly fall under.
A spokesperson for Visa told Variety that the company “condemns sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company.”
“Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity,” the spokesperson added. “We continue to believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case.”
MindGeek also denies that the allegations are true, stating that the court has not proven the veracity of Fleites’ claims.
“When the court can actually consider the facts, we are confident the plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed for lack of merit,” a spokesperson from MindGeek said. “MindGeek has zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history.”