Mastercard under pressure to end ‘discrimination’ against sex workers

Sex Workers MasterCard letter

Mastercard is facing pressure from sex workers and other adult content creators to end alleged discrimination against them, ahead of the credit card company rolling out tough new adult content rules.

2,409 people, including sex workers, pornographers and erotic artists, signed an open letter to Mastercard, urging the company to “end discrimination instead of simply using our culture in ad campaigns.”

Mastercard’s new rules are set to be implemented on October 15, 2021. They will require adult content services it works with, such as porn sites, to verify performers’ ages and whether they’ve given consent for their content to be used.

The move is intended to improve safety and reduce illegal activity, but critics say it will make it harder for many legitimate sex workers to earn a living online.

“Banks make statements about care for harm and communities, but their actions really revolve around decreasing their civil, criminal, and public relations liability. They do this by debanking large swathes of businesses and workers,” the open letter reads.

“But when the entire banking industry discriminates, this leaves debanked workers without access to everything banking is required for: housing, credit, insurance, education, and numerous other necessities,” it added.

“These policies create the conditions for the very exploitation they supposedly fight”

Open letter to Mastercard from signees including sex workers

Mastercard, along with the Visa and Discover financial corporations, has already stopped working with Pornhub, following the site being accused of hosting illegal content including explicit images or videos of underage women. Pornhub has been purging videos from the site and overhauling verification processes since.

Last month OnlyFans quickly reversed a plan to ban sexually explicit content from its site – which built its success on the backs of sex workers earning through the site – following a huge online backlash. When the ban was initially announced, OnlyFans blamed the financial institutions’ tougher rules.

“While Mastercard enjoyed years of praise for rainbow branded campaigns, LGBTQ+ sex workers continued experiencing in the banking war on porn Mastercard leads,” the letter continues.

The signees of the letter asked Mastercard to scrap the October 15 rules.

The letter read: “As Mastercard goes, with policy efforts and PR campaigns, other banks follow. Mastercard must not only set an inclusive standard, but actively bring in banking partners and the financial industry as a whole to a stakeholder-lead effort instead of hand waving away issues the company clearly seeks to influence.”

The letter argued that by potentially pushing sex workers off online earning platforms, Mastercard could be complicit in them feeling compelled to seek more exploitative work.

It read: “These policies create the conditions for the very exploitation they supposedly fight. When marginalized people are denied an income and basic tools like banking, they end up ripe for exploitation.”

It continued: “MasterCard only makes it more likely a sex worker in financial need will rely on an exploitative bigger company that can handle lawyers needed to comply or will need to work with an abusive in-person manager who promises they can find clients no longer available online.”

The letter arrived at a time when many sex workers’ online rights are becoming more prominent online.

The power of thousands of sex workers’ voices heavily influenced OnlyFans’ u-turn on its sexually explicit content ban. Many warned the company that it had badly eroded trust in its service.

Read next: ‘You need us more than we need you’: Creators’ trust in OnlyFans eroded

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Jamie F

Jamie F

Jamie is a freelance writer, contributing to outlets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Telegraph, CNN and Vice.

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