Mastercard is updating requirements for banks that process payments for people and websites that sell adult content in an attempt to weed out illegal material.
Banks will now have to ensure that sellers have documented consent as well as age and identity verification for those involved in the content before being able to process payments, Mastercard said in a blog post Wednesday.
“In the past few years, the ability to upload content to the internet has become easier than ever,” wrote John Verdeschi, the company’s senior vice president of customer engagement and performance. “All someone needs is a smartphone and a Wi-Fi connection. Now, our requirements address the risks associated with this activity.”
Banks will also be required to ensure that sites have a review process and a system for complaints that addresses illegal or nonconsensual activity.
While the new requirements are aimed at combatting abuse, Mary Moody, a founding board member at the Adult Industry Laborers & Artists Association, said the new rules will likely end up making it more difficult for sex workers who have already been affected by the coronavirus pandemic to earn money online.
Moody told The Hill that the requirement for a content review process prior to publication of adult content isn’t feasible for livestreaming on sites like Twitch or Charturbate, which she called “one of the best income sources for smaller models who are barely scrapping by.”
“This requirement would also force huge expenditures for sites like OnlyFans, Twitter and others that rely on a news feed style engagement,” Moody added, noting that being able to share content quickly is important for creators on such sites.
Mike Stabile, the communications director for the Free Speech Coalition, an adult industry trade association, noted that the regulations might dissuade social media sites from “dealing with adult content entirely.”
“If not, they risk not being able to process payments on their network,” he tweeted. “It's hard to explain how short-sighted this is, and how devastating it will be to independent performers.”
The new requirements follow a decision late last year by Mastercard to stop allowing its cards to be used on Pornhub in the wake of a New York Times opinion story alleging the platform was contributing to sex trafficking. Visa and Discover similarly cut off payments to the site.
Sex workers have said those decisions made it difficult for them to rely on the platform, forcing them to pursue other, potentially more dangerous, sources of income.
Since being cut off by the credit card companies, Pornhub has removed all videos uploaded by unverified users and has tightened rules. The platform also released a transparency report for the first time earlier this month, outlining its moderation practices and showing how much infringing content it took down.
The companies have not changed their stance on payments to Pornhub despite those changes.
“Major credit card companies MasterCard and Visa already robbed sex workers of income by banning payments to them during the pandemic, now they are just doubling down on that,” Moody said of the new guidelines introduced Wednesday.