Sex Work

Anti-Porn Groups Target Websites' Ability to Accept Credit Card Payments

We've seen this before...

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Taking a page from their crusades against Craigslist and Backpage, anti-sex-work campaigners are calling for credit card companies to stop doing business with porn websites.

In a new letter to credit card companies, activists throw around phrases like sex trafficking and child abuse while positioning their request as a common-sense plea to stop exploitation. "The letter was sent to 10 major credit card companies, including the 'Big Three', Visa, MasterCard and American Express," reports the BBC. Signed by groups from the U.S., the U.K., India, and elsewhere, it asks these companies to immediately stop doing business with Pornhub and other online porn platforms.

The groups suggest that since it is impossible to "judge or verify consent" in online porn content, "let alone live webcam videos," we should treat all online porn as if it's recorded rape.

A Pornhub spokesperson told the BBC that the letter is "not only factually wrong but also intentionally misleading" and that these signatories were simply attempting "to police people's sexual orientation and activity." The spokesperson added that Pornhub has "a steadfast commitment to eradicating and fighting any and all illegal content, including non-consensual and under-age material," and "any suggestion otherwise is categorically and factually inaccurate."

This isn't the first time activists have gone after the ability of websites to process payments related to sex work. When Craigslist and later Backpage were the moral panic's big targets, advocates including Illinois sheriff Tom Dart lobbied companies to stop doing business with these websites—even though government officials and advocacy groups had earlier asked Craigslist and Backpage to accept credit card payments because they thought it would make tracking customers easier.

Dart went so far as to threaten credit card companies that did business with Backpage, prompting Visa and Mastercard to temporarily suspend their services. (This was later ruled unconstitutional.) In the wake of this, Backpage began accepting Bitcoin and personal checks for classified-ad payments. Federal prosecutors (which seized Backpage in 2018 and are still fighting to send its founders to prison) and folks like Sen. Kamala Harris (who tried twice, unsuccessfully, to convict Backpage leaders when she was attorney general of California) have framed the shift to Bitcoin as an attempt to hide illegal activity; they paint the personal checks as an attempt at money laundering.

Even worse, mistakenly shared memos from federal prosecutors (which a judge has ruled inadmissible, despite their exculpatory nature) show that the federal government strategized about how check or cryptocurrency payments could be used in a money-laundering case against Backpage several years before Dart would use unconstitutional means to ensure that the company had to accept these methods if it wanted to make money.

"They won't stop at Backpage," we warned here back in 2017. And they certainly haven't. Since then, every tactic activists used to demonize (at the expense of sex workers, trafficking victims, and free speech) has been expanded into broader internet territory.

They said the 2018 law FOSTA would carve out an exception to Section 230 (which is basically the internet's First Amendment) only to stop sex trafficking; now they say Section 230 carve outs are needed to fight everything from gun violence to terrorism to revenge porn to people being mean to conservatives to not removing ads that Joe Biden doesn't like.

They said Backpage was just especially bad and needed special consideration; since then, they've used the same logic in cases against Facebook, Craigslist, and Mailchimp—and in legislation aiming to kill encrypted communications entirely.

Now they're pushing to frame all adult-content platforms—including those, like webcams, that make sex work safer and put that performers in more control—as sex-trafficking venues and to bully credit card businesses into dropping their business. Right now they're pressuring them privately, but don't be surprised when the politicians join in. Backpage and small sex-work ad sites were the test case. Censoring the rest of the internet is the goal.

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NEXT: The Price of the First Amendment "Is That We Must Put Up With ... a Good Deal of Rubbish"

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  1. How about political parties? Can we get them de-monitized? Please?

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    2. Abolish the Dick Nixon anti-libertarian entrenched kleptocracy tax-funded subsidies law? No! No! A thousand times no! The Gee Oh Pee would go bankrupt…

  2. Yes, we have seen this before. Most recently against gun rights groups in NY and other conservative groups on the internet.

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    2. It’s cancel culture.

      Instead of tolerance, you use all the means at your disposal to crush your enemies. Crush their ability to earn a living. Going after access to basic infrastructure, like financial transactions, is one way. It’s sure to escalate to all basic internet infrastructure for porn sites, as it has for gab.

      Second order punishing is very effective social control. Don’t just punish your enemies, punish anyone who *doesn’t* punish your enemies.

      Free markets allowed people who hate each other to cooperate in producing value. It also allows them to withdraw that cooperation to punish and marginalize their enemies.

  3. Sounds like a great way to get the masses using Bitcoin.

  4. I thought the Reason party line was private companies can do what they want so this is all fine. This ignorant cunt seems to think mask requirements by government are “voluntary” business actions so how the fuck is this different other than goring her ox?

    Welcome to the treatment you and the rest of your coworkers have been cheerleading in support of ENB.

    1. Saying private companies have a legal right to do something is not the same thing as saying that you support them doing it. No one at Reason has supported activities such as these.
      Does it make you feel better to lie?

      1. This is also why I am not a libertarian, as usually defined. I think that if doing something is an injury to the liberty of someone else, unjustifiable by any rational considerations, then it should be prohibited, for both the government AND private parties. Your right to swing your fist ought to end where my nose begins.

        1. See? Nationalsocialists would be fools to pass up the chance to infiltrate the LP, just as the commies have tried their damndest to infiltrate the party since the 1980s. The flak is thickest over the target. With the LP vote increasing 80% per annum, they are sweating our spoiler votes like Soviet bureaucrats tracking the Chernobyl plume.

          1. Don’t think the LP is big on the “national” part of that.
            Global socialists, on the other hand, probably find your advice redundant

          2. “With the LP vote increasing 80% per annum”

            Going from 1 vote to nearly 2 votes the next year is still a piss poor showing.

            2016 showed the limits of the LP. That was an election set up for them to do very well in. They, as usual, failed.

      2. No one at Reason has supported activities such as these.

        Bullshit. At multiple points Soave, Gillespie, and others have openly advocated for this ‘cultural maligning’ even going so far as coining the term ‘civil libertarianism’ as a name for the socio-political ideology. The sort of principled and objective ideology where the icky stuff they like should be tolerated because that’s liberty, but invasion of privacy, lying, and even verbally assaulting and harassing people who do the icky stuff they don’t like is a-OK because, that’s liberty too.

        1. Yea pretty much this.

          “invasion of privacy, lying, and even verbally assaulting and harassing people who do the icky stuff”

          Remember when ENB trying to get people to doxx a college student on twitter over a joke tweet ?

          1. Remember when ENB trying to get people to doxx a college student on twitter over a joke tweet ?

            I remember when she sided with a woman who murdered her 3-yr.-old son, a serial rapist (of infirm elderly women), and a burglar who was caught in the act by the homeowner over a district attorney because the attorney was having an affair.

            Robby’s renowned for ‘to be sure’ing racists or white supremacists what’s coming to them in practically any defense of free speech and liberty.

            GIllespie outright wrote, “If rural Americans are tired of getting left behind, why don’t they move to the city?”

            I remember when the magazine at large coined and ran with the ‘transgender bathroom panic’ narrative when even a trivial assessment revealed that it was government bureaucrats telling private business owners how they can and can’t run their business (again).

            Useless idiots striving to be useful.

      3. Not a lie, just a demand for a bit of intellectual consistency, but I get where you’re confused by that. Just know, no matter how much you white knight for her she’s not making you a sandwich.

      4. “Does it make you feel better to lie?”

        Oh horseshit.

        ENB is exhibiting a blatant double standard. When Patreon or others demonetize a voice that Reason is indifferent or opposed to, then they give us the “private companies” line.

        When it is their own pet project being hung out to dry then they are “bullies” opposing private business and seeking to “censor” the internet.

        Fuck you, boor licker.

    2. The problem is Operation Chokepoint ended, the DOJ apologized, settled its suits, and promised to change its training policies (under the Trump administration) and that’s inconvenient to ENB’s ‘War On Porn’ narrative.

      1. The fact that the original Operation Chokepoint was ended is not all that inconvenient to a story that some other people are trying to get something similar started.

        1. You’re right. My fault for the the assumption that Reason gives two shits about libertarianism.

          Since they don’t there’s no problem, incoherent subjectivity, or inconsistency with “I’m right when I oppose some icky stuff socially but other people are wrong when they socially oppose stuff they think is icky.”

          Call me back about the war on porn when Larry Flynt gets shot again. Otherwise, fuck ENB and her pro-porn crusade against the anti-porn terrorists.

  5. At the local Giant I saw a Coinstar kiosk with a big sign encouraging people to buy BitCoin here

  6. Can’t they leave my porn alone! I mean what is their issue. My theory behind the feminists is they don’t want to lose the power of the p#$y..I mean why deal with their BS when I can rub one out for free (or a reasonable price) but what is with the guys? Don’t tell me they aren’t partaking when the wife is out of the house.

  7. It has nothing to do with consent or the lack thereof. That’s just the excuse of the day. Payment processors have used financial threats to force websites to stop hosting sexual drawings and animations, where there’s obviously no consent concerns involved. It’s de facto censorship, and it’s motivated by the same puritan impulses as always. Now if only we could all agree that de facto censorship by private companies always sucks.

  8. “we should treat all online porn as if it’s recorded rape”
    That’s consistent with the mentality of shutting the economy because of a virus

    1. That’s consistent with the mentality of:
      all women are victims.
      all women must be believed on any sexual allegation.
      all women are honest and pure as the driven snow.
      all men are liars, misogynists and rapists.

      1. In all four examples, you forgot the important part; “unless the accused is a democrat”.

  9. People pay for porn?

    1. Thats the weirdest fetish I’ve ever heard of

      1. If you think that’s weird, the number of people and the amount of money paid for 1 month/1 week/1 day of ‘free’ porn for several years would probably astound you.

  10. I’m not advocating for blanket censorship. However, does the government have a role in shutting down a platform that negligently allows non-consensual and underage content?
    https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-51391981
    Shouldn’t pornographic platforms be held responsible for allowing such content to be uploaded? I know that the creators of backpage were collaborating with police to stop sex traffickers, I don’t like that backpage was taken down, but pornhub doesn’t seem to be interested in protecting victims.
    I’m hoping Elizabeth Brown sees this and writes a response article on the topic of the governments role in these matters, and how to respond to the immoral acts.

    1. You call porn a drug, and your username is NotGoingtoArgueWithYou. Fuck off, puritan authoritarian. Your disingenuous concern trolling isn’t going to fly here.

      1. My username was made specifically for people who hurl insults and use Bulverism.

        1. For me to engage in Bulverism would require you to present an argument in the first place, rather than ask disingenuous questions, our answer to which you know god damn well is “no”. Again, fuck off.

          1. Assuming motive is a part of Bulverism, and I am searching for an intelligent thoughtful answer which you have demonstrated that you are unwilling or unable to provide.

            1. I didn’t assume your motive, you wear it on your sleeve. You come strolling in here with a link to the site of an anti-porn crusade, while coyly saying “I’m just asking questions. I’m sincerely curious about your views.” The hell you are.
              But if it will shut you up and get you to finally fuck off, here’s my answer: Hell no. Platforms should never bear any responsibility for the actions of their users. They should be expected to remove illegal material when they are demonstrably aware of its presence, and that should be the extent of it. Negligence is an ambiguous standard, and the state has no business deciding whether a platform “should have” been aware of something they missed. The state can’t even be trusted to competently do the legitimate job of stopping people who are actually harming children, so why should we allow them the power to shut down businesses that aren’t harming anyone?

    2. How exactly is PornHub not interested in protecting victims?

  11. And what happens when a certain pornographic website publishes at least two videos of a child being raped? (This has happened right now, and the website in question has ignored any questions and blocked the victims on Twitter.) There needs to be some sense of accountability. Libertarians ignore this issue at their own peril.

    1. So, two videos of child rape and the victims went to Twitter instead of the police? Or did the victims go to the police and the police said, “We know it’s child rape but, you know that because of the internet, there’s nothing we can do.”? Did the police win convictions or even get arrest warrants against the videographers or anyone else involved in taping and uploading the rape or is the website the only guilty party here?

      I’m no fan of section 230 and I think that if there’s legitimate harm being done by the website in question, the ‘victims’ should bring suit in court. However, libertarians and others *should* ignore your transparently disingenuous bullshit. The only peril in ignoring hyperbolic bullshit is lower blood pressure.

    2. How many children are being raped right now? Wouldn’t it be better to marshal resources toward preventing child abuse before it happens, rather than waiting until after the fact and then using ‘the children’ as an excuse to attempt to enforce your prudishness on everyone else? Problem is, it’s a lot harder to prevent bad acts, and as much as the Moral Majority types wish they had police powers, they (thankfully) don’t. So they settle for harassing propaganda campaigns and waging lawfare against the ‘easy meat’ of established porn sites. Authoritarians, slavers and moralizing hypocrite crusaders push this tripe at their own peril.

  12. They came for the Jews, but I wasn’t jewish. Then they came for the communists, and I sure as hell wasn’t one of them. Now they’re coming for pornstars? Go ahead… make my day! (Makes Bruce Lee come-hither gesture)

  13. Pornhub should sue the shit out of them if those letters actually contain untrue statements.

    That said, on what planet do they think its a good idea to try and take away porn from a bunch of already pissed off people trapped in their homes. That’s a good way to get people pissed at you

  14. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

    1. But on-line porn isn’t getting the milk for free. It’s getting a video of someone else drinking a glass of milk.

    2. How I hate that saying; it’s just such a bad analogy.

      Why buy the cow when you can buy the milk at a supermarket?

      Why buy the cow when you can’t sell it to an abattoir when it stops giving you milk?

      Who really wants to be stuck with a cow anyway?

      I agree that on-line porn isn’t getting the milk for free but, if you’re paying for it, it’s a video of someone else getting paid to drink a glass of milk.

      1. “Why buy the cow when you can’t sell it to an abattoir when it stops giving you milk?”

        If you didn’t buy the cow, how can you sell it to anyone?

      2. How I hate that saying; it’s just such a bad analogy.

        It would seem your reading and analytical skills are ready for the abattoir, figuratively speaking. It’s not an analogy any more than a woman is a cow.

        1. Perhaps you should consult a dictionary because, the saying is an analogy.

          The saying is comparing a woman to a cow. The accepted meaning of the saying is: “why get married (buy the cow) when you can get sex (the milk) for free”. If you don’t get that, that’s not my fault – people frequently ascribe different meanings to common sayings.

          My reason for saying it is a bad analogy is because, it ignores the truth about milk cows completely. Milk cows are expected to give milk on demand and, when they stop producing milk, they usually get sold for slaughter; in other words, the farmer makes money from the cow, one way or the other.

          In comparison, women only have sex when they feel like it and if a woman stops having sex with her husband, he’s going to pay through the nose to get rid of her (legally).

          The saying really only makes sense if the cow is a prostitute and and the man who’s buying her is a pimp.

          1. Perhaps you should consult a dictionary because, the saying is an analogy.

            My mistake, your reading and analytical skills are unfit for slaughter and would more appropriately disposed of in the sludge pit.

            My reason for saying it is a bad analogy is because, it ignores the truth about milk cows completely.

            That’s because it’s a figure of speech and not an analogy. It’s not clarifying or explaining comparison of how you should milk a woman until she should be sent to the slaughterhouse, it’s a figurative reference about the merits of owning vs. renting.

            In comparison, women only have sex when they feel like it and if a woman stops having sex with her husband, he’s going to pay through the nose to get rid of her (legally).

            The lengthier clarifying comparison is an analogy (albeit a poor one), ‘paying through the nose’ is a figure of speech. You don’t mean that his payment is going to require sedation, be performed by a surgeon, and the medical waste is going to be given to his wife as much as you mean “He’s going to be compelled to pay a difficult amount in a difficult manner.”

            Idioms, metaphors, metonymy, euphemisms… all are figures of speech. Analogies are a logic tool. If he’d said “Marrying a woman is like buying a cow when you want to buy milk, you shouldn’t pay for the source of something in a lump sum, lifetime commitment when you can rent as needed at a lower rate.” it would be a (bad) analogy. “Why buy a drill when all you want is a hole?” would be an idiom/metaphor/euphemism/figure of speech.

          2. “In comparison, women only have sex when they feel like it and if a woman stops having sex with her husband, he’s going to pay through the nose to get rid of her (legally).”

            At the time this adage was created, marriage gave the husband the right to rape his wife. So sex was a given; enjoyable sex wasn’t, but it never is…

  15. It’s both pathetic and also highly suspect when there are groups that want to police other people’s masturbatory practices. Are they time-travelling Victorians or something? Don’t these people realize they really need to get a life?

    1. What they really need is to be exposed. Publish their names, addresses, phone numbers and photos online and invite people to take it up with them in person. Let’s see how they feel about their accusations when their targets are allowed to confront them personally.

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  17. Nothing new here. I think more than a decade has passed since the assholes at Paypal cut off many sites (including, but not limited to “porn”) and I subsequently banned Paypal from my life. I never read anywhere that they relented. Rot In Hell, Paypal.

  18. “now they say Section 230 carve outs are needed to fight everything from…”

    They’ve been pulling the same “mission creep” nonsense for over 100 years, with virtually every single law on the books. I’d ask “when will people see through it” but considering how long they’ve been getting away with it I’m not sure people will figure it out.

    1. It’s not mission creep any more than forcing your way in after sticking your foot in the door is mission creep.

      There’s no ‘internet exception’ to the 1A, it applied to the internet up to 1996 when the CDA (of which section 230 is a part) passed, it applied when the majority of the CDA was struck down, it still applies, it will apply after section 230’s been gutted and discarded. Section 230 was passed by Congress, Congress can, by law, amend and repeal it.

      I’m neither here nor there with regard to anti-porn activists, they most certainly can write their banks to tell them to express their opinions. Coincidentally, on a personal note, it makes my job harder when banks decide to comply. However, the idea that section 230 helps or stops them one way or the other is garbage. All it does is abstract away the Constitution so that Congress is better able to pick winners and losers. The idea that the internet is on or two private letters to Visa from being overtaken by Neo-Puritans is hyperbolic idiocy.

  19. Pearl-clutching nanny state prohibitionists! Its almost as though the mean-spirited know-it-all puritanism of the temperence movement is still strong in America. If you don’t like porn don’t watch it. Its simple. Its easy. It works. If we ban everything somebody somewhere doesn’t like there will be nothing left for anybody. This isn’t even about tolerance. Its about not being a rat-fink meddlesome freedom crushing busybody. I know people like to accuse libertarians of egotism and taking individual liberties to extremes, but they are missing the point. Libertarianism requires significant humility. Its not just about other people not telling me what to do. Its about accepting that its not my place to decide what others should do and believe or how others should live and think. If they don’t ask for my opinion or help it would be condescending to give it to them.

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