Visa and MasterCard Say Death to Pornhub—and By Extension, the Internet

How the self-congratulations of stepping away from Pornhub masks a much more nefarious and frightening potential future.

Just two days after Pornhub announced aggressive changes to its gross and negligent moderation practices in order to curb unverified users from uploading horrifying, violent, and illegal content on their website, MasterCard and Visa stepped in to make announcements of their own: Death to Pornhub.

Many people don’t realize this, but a lot of stuff you see in big big studio porn isn’t actually dictated by the law: It’s the credit card companies that process their payments, and the taste of their relevant board members. Stebro roleplay? That’s fine, according to certain credit cards, as long as they don’t actually look like each other. Oh, someone’s tied up? That’s fine, but there cant be a gun or a knife if they’re tied up. That’s too much. And that’s how it works. This is why gay porn online is way tamer than its straight counterparts. Big business homophobia. Compare and contrast some family role play scenes across gay and straight sites. Get back to me on the disparity in the uh, “freedom of speech” thats allowed there.

And that’s what’s on the line here. This is the final goal: the end of the Internet as we know it. This move doesn’t come as protection for anybody, it comes as a threat and a significant contribution to a climate that creates fear around the nature and size of exploitation online as a distraction, creating more and more extreme and unconstitutional laws to deal with the purported size of that problem. And it’s not just Trump and his army of conspiracy theory chugging youtube soldiers. Remember Amy Klobuchar just making up facts on the Senate floor to look tough on crime?. People are always doing this. “Oh, so and so number of people are exploited each year. This is the biggest problem in the free world today.” Nobody has actual statistics on this. Nobody.

Remember who helped write and ardently defend the disastrous SESTA/FOSTA bill, basically expanding the Patriot Act and letting the government do any kind of probing it wants at any time, shut down any website they like for whatever reason, past, present, or future? It was our Vice President Elect: Kamala “Cop” Harris.

Don’t get me wrong. This is an issue, and Pornhub has more than earned the hot water it’s in right now. After all, laissez-faire moderation is big business at its best, and very profitable. That’s outright evil. But please: Spare me the delayed outrage.

Visa doesn’t care about ending sex trafficking and child exploitation imagery on Pornhub. If they did, they would’ve taken action like this years ago when news was breaking about videos of sexual assaults on the site. And it wouldn’t have come after they announced they were immediately making the changes necessary to prevent this from happening.

This is just another brick in the wall, a contribution to the narrative around sex trafficking online. Just like Congress’s unconstitutional decision this year to deny perfectly legally operating sex work businesses COVID relief and paycheck protection not out of any legal reasoning, but out of moral turpitude. It contributes to the idea that we must do everything we can to stop this enormous problem. Anything: Including the end of Section 230.

And for those who don’t know, Section 230 is basically the law that creates free speech online. It prevents sites like Pornhub, Facebook, and Twitter from being liable for most of what their users post. This is what practically “allows” us to post oh, articles like this, comments on your Facebook wall, tweets, videos of police officers beating the shit out of innocent people, etc. Without section 230, we would be at the mercy of big businesses and what their taste allows, instead of the free and open Internet that the constitution arguably requires. Without Section 230, companies won’t take the risk. They’ll shut it down.

That means no more Arab Springs. That means no more grassroots movements. That means no more safe networks for sex workers online trying to protect themselves and communicate about clients who are dangerous and abusive. That means no more filming the cops. 

That’s what we call a bipartisan effort, baby.

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