Mastercard has announced rules designed to stop illegal adult content being sold by sites using its services.

John Verdeshi, senior Vice President at Mastercard, says that the credit card company will require banks to ensure that sites selling adult content have “clear, unambiguous and documented consent” from people depicted in the content.

To be able to link the sites to Mastercard’s network, banks must also ensure that sites verify the ages and identities of people depicted in their sold adult content.

Furthermore, under the rules sites must have a “content review process” prior to publication, a complaints process that addresses illegal content within seven days, and an appeals process allowing anyone depicted to request their content be removed.

The move has raised concerns about sex workers’ livelihoods being put at risk, due to porn uploading and payment processes becoming more complicated.

Verdeshi said that banks connecting adult content sites to Mastercard “need to certify that the seller of adult content has effective controls in place to monitor, block and, where necessary, take down all illegal content.”

“In the past few years, the ability to upload content to the internet has become easier than ever. All someone needs is a smartphone and a wi-fi connection. Now, our requirements address the risks associated with this activity. And that starts with strong content control measures and clear, unambiguous and documented consent,” he aded.

The announcement accelerates the US porn industry’s move towards something of a reckoning with regard to illegal content. Recently US politicians put forward tough adult content laws in reaction to alleged links between porn and illegal activity such as human trafficking and child exploitation.

Mastercard and Visa blocked customers from using their payment services on Pornhub, following a New York Times investigation in December 2020 about content featuring minors on the site.

Pornhub reacted by overhauling its model verification and content moderation processes, banning new uploads from unverified users and removing huge amounts of previous-uploaded videos.

Cathy Beardsley, CEO of online payment processing service Segpay, told Xbiz that Mastercard’s rules could “impact the entire adult industry”, including tube, cam, fan and adult dating sites.

Some sex workers have cautioned that tougher verification and moderation rules on adult sites could cause them to lose income. On the day of the Mastercard announcement Allie Eve Knox, who sells video clips online, tweeted about sex workers having to change how they label content.

Mitch Farber, CEO of payment processing system NETbilling, said that Mastercard’s rules could harm independent performers using social media for promotion. It’s unclear how rigorously the rules would apply to sites not designated as adult content sites that also host porn content, such as Twitter.

“It’s not easy to separate out a mythical ‘adult internet’ from a non-adult internet,” Farber told Xbiz. “Our businesses and content creators use many of the same platforms as mainstream businesses to reach audiences.”

Attorney Larry Walters, of Walters Law Group, says that the porn industry needs to prepare to comply with the new Mastercard rules, work with free models or look to alternative payment methods such as cryptocurrencies.

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