Explainer: Visa suspends business with one of ​​the world’s largest pornographers

August 12, 2022

The dehumanizing effects of pornography affect those on both sides of the screen. Not only is the viewer dehumanizing themselves by separating the goodness of sexual intercourse from its proper context within marriage as God designed, but there is also a victim who is portrayed and treated as nothing but a simple object of desire. Far too often, the victim is a child who is being abused for the pleasure of the viewer—and it’s made possible because some companies put profit ahead of the vulnerable. 

That’s the situation in a recent court case involving an abused child and two large multinational corporations. A federal judge has denied a request by the financial services corporation Visa to dismiss a lawsuit by a woman who accuses the payment processor of knowingly facilitating the distribution of child pornography. Visa is accused of continuing to provide payment processing services to MindGeek even after the company has been exposed for profiting from child pornography. MindGeek owns some of the most visited pornography websites in North America and Europe.

What happened? 

The basis of the lawsuit is a child pornography incident from 2014. According to court documents, at that time a 13-year-old girl was pressured by her then-boyfriend to make a sexully explicit video. Without the girl’s knowledge, the boyfriend then uploaded the video to the pornography website Pornhub, which is owned by MindGeek. Mindgeek took that video—which included the girl’s age in the title—and posted it other pornography websites, where it was viewed 400,000 times.

The teen girl contacted MindGeek and told the company the video was child pornography. The company waited several weeks before removing the video, and by the time they did it had been downloaded and reuploaded numerous times. One of the reuploads had 2.7 million views. During this time, and for years afterward, the girl received messages from strangers containing links to the videos. 

When the girl asked that subsequent reposted videos be removed, she was allegedly told by MindGeek that she needed “to provide photographic proof that she was the child depicted in the video before removing [the videos].” Throughout this timeperiod, MindGeek earned advertisement revenue from the reuploads and posted the reuploads to its other pornographic websites. 

The lawsuit notes that the young girl’s “life spiraled out of control” because of the​​ videos. She made several suicide attempts and ended up moving in with a friend. At her friend’s house, an older man introduced the minor to heroin. The older man then funded her heroin addiction, encouraged her to create sexually explicit videos, and encouraged her to sell the videos of child pornogrpaphy on Craigslist. 

Some of these new videos were uploaded to Pornhub and were still available on the website as recently as June 2020. MindGeek uploaded these videos to its other pornographic websites and earned ad revenue from the videos. The lawsuit claims that, “While MindGeek profited from the child porn featuring Plaintiff, Plaintiff was intermittently homeless or living in her car, addicted to heroin, depressed and suicidal, and without the support of her family.”

Along with Pornhub, MindGeek operates numerous free and paid pornographic websites. The company makes money from its free sites through advertising its paid sites and products on the free sites, by selling ad space on the free sites for the services or products of third parties, and by harvesting and selling the data of persons who use the free sites. As the lawsuit points out, “To reach their intended audience, advertisers can build campaigns around keywords like ‘13yearoldteen’ and ‘not18’; indeed, they can even target ads to people searching the term ‘child rape’ in Japanese.”

MindGeek also takes the user-uploaded content and posts them to other sites the company owns. The company is alleged to be keeping all the videos, including the ones that have been deleted. If true, this would mean that the servers owned and controlled by MindGeek would contain a large volume of child pornography that could be reuploaded or sold. 

Visa was included in the lawsuit on the basis of a claim the company was complicit in MindGeek’s actions because Visa payment cards were used to pay for advertising on MindGeek sites. Visa had been frequently criticized by anti-trafficking activists for turning a blind eye to sites that included forced pornography. It was until a New York Times expose of child pornography in 2020 titled “The Children of Pornhub” that Visa stopped taking payments for that site. Visa took temporary action by suspending MindGeek but later restored services for MindGeek’s paid premium sites and for advertising on all its sites.

Because of the court’s recent actions, Visa has placed MindGeek on suspension, which means Visa cards will not be able to be used to purchase advertising on any sites including Pornhub or other MindGeek affiliated sites. Mastercard has also said it’s directing financial institutions to suspend acceptance of its products at MindGeek’s advertising arm following the court ruling.

How we can respond 

While it took a lawsuit to bring about change, Visa and Mastercard are finally doing the right thing in severing ties with this pornographer. We should pray that we’ll see more of this in ​​future, since porn companies are hindered in their exploitative efforts when they are denied access to financial services. 

But while such moves cut into the supply side of the pornography equation, we should not forget that its the demand for such content—even among Christian men and women—that makes such abuse of children possible. 

Our hope and prayer is that what is hidden will come to light in the fullness of time, and that the dangers and abuses of the pornography industry will be revealed for all to see. And as the church, we must be ready to proclaim the forgiveness found in the light of Jesus Christ while working to welcome, defend, and care for the vulnerable among us. 

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24