Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga explains why his company cut off Pornhub

In a new interview, outgoing Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga explained that the company’s decision to cut off the popular pornography website Pornhub was a measure of applying legal standards rather than moral ones.

“We went back and we looked, and we found actually instances where clearly the legal standard of what should be allowed on Pornhub had been crossed,” Banga said in a podcast interview with The New York Times. “So we went back to Pornhub and said, ‘Sorry, you’ve crossed the legal standard.'”

Banga added: “Porn’s not illegal. It is certain kinds of porn that are illegal. So child porn is, and that’s what we saw. That’s why we pulled out.”

Visa and Mastercard launched investigations following a Times column by Nick Kristof in early December that alleged Pornhub was hosting recordings of assaults on unconscious women and girls. One week later, both companies pulled payment services from Pornhub.

Banga stressed the importance of the distinction between morality and legality, saying morality-based decisions were a “slippery slope” for his company.

“For example, I’ve had people ask me why couldn’t Mastercard cut off merchants who sell guns?” he said. “That’s really interesting, because, you know, Walmart sells ammunition, guns, and diapers, and I don’t know what you bought, so I don’t know how to cut it off. And trying to make that point has been one of the most interesting things, because people go right past that.”

Banga also pointed to sales of marijuana, which is legal in 11 states but remains illegal at the federal level. “Different states legalized the sale of marijuana, but we can’t allow our cards to be used to buy them, because the federal government hasn’t legalized it,” he said. “And so we follow that standard, and that’s what we’ve been doing all this time.”

As for why Mastercard didn’t move to investigate Pornhub sooner, Banga said it couldn’t find illegal content.
Pornhub denied the allegations in Kristof’s column and has since announced several major changes. The site no longer allows anyone to upload videos, and it requires anyone uploading to go through a verification process. It also said it removed tens of millions of videos that no longer qualified under those new standards.
Business Insider

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