QotD: “PayPal cuts off Pornhub over child abuse videos”

PayPal has stopped processing payments for the world’s biggest pornography website after it was found to be hosting illegal content, including videos depicting child sexual abuse.

The electronic money transfer service had enabled Pornhub to pay people who are part of a company scheme under which porn stars and amateur models can earn a cut of the advertising revenue generated by the videos they upload. Top earners, whose videos get millions of views, can rake in £30,000 a month.

The decision comes after an investigation by The Sunday Times, published a fortnight ago, found Pornhub to be hosting illegal content including child abuse videos.

PayPal said it “explicitly prohibits the use of our services for the sale of materials that depict criminal behaviour, or the sale of sexually oriented content to minors”.

It added: “We work with a payment service provider to ensure their merchants follow our policies and adhere to applicable laws. Following a review, we have discovered Pornhub has made certain business payments through PayPal without seeking our permission. We have taken action to stop these transactions from occurring.” It said it had not seen evidence the payments were directly linked to illegal activities.

The content on Pornhub, uploaded by users around the world, included clips of men performing sex acts in front of children on buses and an account devoted to posting “creepshots” of UK schoolgirls.

The material makes up a small proportion of the more than 9m videos on Pornhub. But the fact that it, along with upskirting, voyeurism and revenge porn, was easy to find has raised fears the website is not doing enough to police user uploads. One of the clips had been viewed more than 350,000 times and was on the site for three years.

Two big advertisers, Unilever and Heinz, distanced themselves from Pornhub after the revelations. Both have advertised on the site in the past year.

PayPal has a history of cutting ties with controversial figures, including the English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson. It does not allow its services to be used to “promote hate, violence or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory”. It also prohibits some gambling activities and has strict rules on the sale of sexually oriented goods and services.

Kate Isaacs, from #NotYourPorn, described PayPal’s former relationship with Pornhub as “problematic” and said she feared payments were made to “women being advertised as porn stars without their consent”.

Pornhub, owned by MindGeek, said it was “devastated” by PayPal’s decision, which it said would affect more than 100,000 performers, who will now be paid by direct debit or cryptocurrency. Blake White, its vice-president, said: “Decisions like that of PayPal . . . do nothing but harm efforts to end stigma towards sex workers.” The site claims to have a “robust” policy on illegal content, and said its aim was to eradicate “disgusting” child sexual abuse material from its platform.

“As criminals have become more sophisticated in their methods to disseminate child sexual abuse material, we are constantly adjusting our own preventative tactics. We believe these tactics are working,” White said.


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