LOS ANGELES — A controversial California federal judge ruled on Friday against Visa’s request to be dismissed from a lawsuit alleging it “conspired” with MindGeek to profit from CSAM.
Judge Cormac J. Carney of the U.S. District Court of central California — a George W. Bush appointee who had to step down from his previous post as as Chief Judge for making a racially insensitive comment about one of his law clerks — wrote in his opinion that “if Visa was aware that there was a substantial amount of child porn on MindGeek’s sites, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, then it was aware that it was processing the monetization of child porn, moving money from advertisers to MindGeek for advertisements playing alongside child porn like Plaintiff’s videos.”
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a woman who claims underage images uploaded by third parties were “monetized” by Pornhub, is part of an ongoing campaign of legal actions by religiously motivated groups like NCOSE and activists like Leila Mickelwait, aiming to shut down MindGeek and “online pornography.”
A Judicial Warning to the Entire Payment Processing Industry
According to a story in The New York Times, “the decision’s unusually strong language raises alarms for payment processors.”
The newspaper highlighted Carney’s statement that “when the Court couples MindGeek’s expansive content removal with allegations that former MindGeek employees have reported a general anxiety at the company that Visa might pull the plug, it does not strike the Court as fatally speculative to say that Visa — with knowledge of what was being monetized and authority to withhold the means of monetization — bears direct responsibility (along with MindGeek) for MindGeek’s monetization of child porn, and in turn the monetization of Plaintiff’s videos.”
A spokesman for Visa told the Times that the company condemns “sex trafficking, sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse materials as repugnant to our values and purpose as a company.”
Visa, the Times noted, “does not tolerate the use of its network for illegal activity and continues to believe it is an improper defendant.”
The plaintiff’s attorney, Michael Bowe, told Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post that “the Court’s holding that our detailed complaint adequately pleads Visa was engaged in a criminal conspiracy to monetize child porn means Visa and other credit card companies are finally going to face the civil and perhaps criminal consequences of this unconscionable and illegal activity.”
Bowe, a former lawyer for Donald Trump and disgraced evangelist Jerry Falwell, Jr., has appeared alongside anti-porn activist Laila Mickelwait before Canada’s parliament to demand the shuttering and prosecution of all MindGeek sites.
A rep for MindGeek gave the following statement to mainstream trade publication Variety yesterday:
“At this point in the case, the Court has not yet ruled on the veracity of the allegations, and is required to assume all of the plaintiff’s allegations are true and accurate. When the Court can actually consider the facts, we are confident the plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed for lack of merit. MindGeek has zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms, and has instituted the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history.
“We have banned uploads from anyone who has not submitted government-issued ID that passes third-party verification, eliminated the ability to download free content, integrated several leading technological platform and content moderation tools, instituted digital fingerprinting of all videos found to be in violation of our Non-Consensual Content and CSAM [child sexual abuse material] Policies to help protect against removed videos being reposted, expanded our moderation workforce and processes, and partnered with dozens of non-profit organizations around the world. Any insinuation that MindGeek does not take the elimination of illegal material seriously is categorically false.”