Why Big Business doesn’t care about the girls abused on Pornhub

By Jonathon Van Maren

The war on Pornhub—which I’ve been covering on this blog—has been going quite well of late. As I noted in First Things, anti-porn activists have racked up a substantial number of wins against the Internet’s biggest porn giant. A key tactic has been to target Pornhub’s payment processors to cut them off from their revenue. Recently in Time Magazine, outgoing Visa CEO Al Kelly addressed the pressure placed on his company, and this excerpt stood out to me—it’s a long excerpt, but worth reading:

Also in July, a judge declined to dismiss a case against Visa for servicing payments that could have facilitated sex trafficking on Pornhub. What’s your position on this ruling?

We think the judge’s judgment was wrong. We were not a party to that [case] at all. That said, if what’s alleged in the complaint is correct, it’s abhorrent. Obviously, no children should be involved in anything has anything to do with sexual exploitation. But we have no idea what happened in this particular case back eight or nine years ago, and we had nothing to do with it. That was our case to the court; the judge disagreed. So we move forward from here.

At the beginning of last year, after Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about Pornhub and its owner MindGeek, Visa did withdraw the ability for customers to use its cards on that site—

That’s correct. We withdrew it for user posted content, but not the professional aspect of the site.

What about TrafficJunky [the subsidiary of MindGeek that sells advertising]?

One of the judgments that came out of the judge’s ruling that mentioned TrafficJunky as being associated with his decision, and we decided, in the spirit of being as careful as we can, to suspend TrafficJunky from acceptance on our networks. By the way, most of the advertising that appears on the sites are things like products for men to grow hair. I haven’t read the Nick Kristof article so I can’t make a judgment. We would never support something that was illegal.

So you haven’t looked into these claims at all, that people have against Pornhub?

First of all, we don’t have a relationship with Pornhub, or Mindgeek, just to be clear, it’s through acquirers [the institutions that connect merchants to credit card companies], and they have looked into it and have attested to us that they have not identified any cases where there is an issue.

You appear to be quite a devoted Catholic. Is this not a problem for you personally, that you might inadvertently be funding this kind of practice?

I run a company. So I leave my personal feelings to myself. We’re not moral arbiters. We’re not lawmakers, we follow the law of the countries in which we do business.

But you are sort of moral arbiters—you withdrew from Russia. That was a moral decision.

It also was driven by the fact that it was getting extremely difficult to operate there.

Is it so bad to be a moral arbiter? You wrote a blog post in 2020, after the murder of George Floyd about how we as a country can’t allow this kind of thing to continue and you made some commitments about what you would do at Visa to do your part; doesn’t it feel like that’s a little bit of moral arbiting?

My view is that I speak out when it directly impacts the company. When it doesn’t, it’s not my position to speak out.

How did the death of George Floyd directly impact the company?

The death of George Floyd was yet another unfortunate clear sign of Black people being treated poorly. We’re a company that believes deeply in diversity; we have a great deal of diversity in our company. And I felt strongly in that particular case it warranted me speaking out.

Kelly’s responses are hugely indicative of where corporate leaders are at with regard social issues. On one hand, Kelly claims that he isn’t a “moral arbiter.” Activists and journalists had been exposing the rampant sexual violence on Pornhub for years before Visa was finally forced into taking action, and just the screenshots and video descriptions of what is going on at Pornhub alone were horrifying. But Kelly—and Visa—ignored all of that. Kelly says he didn’t even read Kristoff’s bombshell report “The children of Pornhub,” which I find hard to believe. But when the interviewer points out that Kelly and Visa have, in fact, been happy to act as moral arbiters in the past—most specifically with regard to the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter–Kelly discovers his moral outrage.

In fact, Kelly does an about-turn when Floyd is mentioned. The reason he spoke out then, Kelly says, is because Visa “believes deeply in diversity; we have a great deal of diversity in our company.” Presumably, Visa also has many female employees; presumably, they believe deeply in a society in which sexual assault is seen as a horrifying violation, not entertainment for the purpose of arousal. But customers seemed to really, really care about Black Lives Matter—but people do not care, for the most part, about the women and girls getting bashed around on Pornhub. Many of Visa’s customers–and employees–probably log on to Pornhub to watch such things.  And so when confronted with what is going on at Pornhub and the disconnect between his inaction and his Catholic faith, Kelly retreats to moral neutrality. When a popular social cause is mentioned, Kelly hastens to stake his moral ground.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Big Business went woke.



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