Credit card company puts pressure on banks to regulate activities of adult businesses

Not content to merely pull all Mastercard payments from Pornhub, credit card company Mastercard has announced that it will now require banks that connect merchants to the Mastercard network to follow new guidelines. Although Mastercard claims that these new rules are to prevent “unlawful activity”, the new rules are likely to make it even harder for adult businesses to obtain payment processing for Mastercard transactions. Adult businesses are already considered “high risk” and many banks will not process payments for them, and the payment processors that do handle adult transactions charge substantially higher rates for their services. Mastercard has approximately 26% market share of credit cards worldwide, and over 20% of American adults have at least 1 Mastercard credit card, so losing access to Mastercard transactions would be a major hit for many adult businesses. Mastercard itself will not be policing these guidelines, rather it is pushing that requirement onto the banks, many of whom may decide it is easier (and cheaper) to simply refuse to work with adult businesses. American Express decided in 2000 to ban transactions from adult sites on its cards, and this new Mastercard requirement could end up resulting in the same outcome, albeit by a different means. Industry experts expect Visa to reveal some sort of updated adult content policy soon as well.

Mastercard’s New Requirements

  • Documented age and identity verification for all people depicted and those uploading the content
    Following the Pornhub debacle, most adult sites beefed up their requirements for documentation submission, and several tube sites ended unverified uploading. If you do not have model releases and ID documents for all of the content you own, you are likely to lose that content when sites begin the review process that will undoubtedly follow this move. Don’t panic if you don’t have documents, though: while not ideal, you can still reach out to the performers you worked with and get documentation from them now. It is possible that sites won’t accept paperwork signed after the fact, but it is worth a try if you have a lot of content that you did not get proper documentation for at the time.
  • Content review process prior to publication
    Very few sites used by independent performers currently review content before it is posted. In fact, for services like camming, this is impossible as the content exists in a live format. Most sites rely on a flagging report system for content that violates site rules. The vague wording of this requirement – and the lack of understanding that much adult content is live and that the volume of content posted on clip sites is massive, even for sites that only permit verified uploaders – is concerning.
  • Complaint resolution process that addresses illegal or nonconsensual content within seven business days
    Sites will be required to formalize their complaint processes and make them more clearly available, which is not entirely a bad thing. Depending on the volume of content hosted on the site – and the potential abuse of the complaint process by bad actors intending to harass adult producers – this could be onerous for some sites, and may be a significant expense for some. In comparison to content review, however, this requirement is a drop in the bucket.
  • Appeals process allowing for any person depicted to request their content be removed
    It is not clear whether having valid model release documentation would override this rule. It is possible that banks could decide that anyone depicted in adult content may ask at any time to have the content removed regardless of having signed a model release at the time of production. This would be a huge issue for producers as models exit the industry all the time, and many attempt to scrub their content from the internet. In the past, proving ownership of content and consent by having an appropriately completed model release was a defense against being forced to remove content by a model who has changed their mind, but it’s possible that in the future that will change if sites want to continue accepting Mastercard payments.

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