PornHub only accepts crypto payments
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Besieged PornHub now only accepts crypto payments

After a devastating New York Times column accused it of allowing child pornography, Visa and Mastercard banned the world’s biggest adult entertainment platform

PornHub, the world’s top adult video streaming online service, now only accepts cryptocurrency payments from its United States-based customers.

While PornHub had been ahead of the curve in accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for its premium live streaming content, it suddenly found itself dependent on crypto after Mastercard, Visa, and Discover banned it following a devastating Dec. 4 New York Times column by William Kristol. 

In the article, “The Children of PornHub,” Kristol said the firm “monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags.”

The paying customer onboarding page of PornHub’s website now shows only a cryptocurrency payment option to users accessing it from a United States-based internet protocol (IP) address. Customers accessing the service from Europe—on the other hand—are only met by the SEPA European bank wire option.

As Modern Consensus reported in late January 2020, PornHub turned to crypto after PayPal dropped the collaboration with the website in November 2019.

In the wake of Kristol’s column, PornHub saw its payment processing partners cut ties with the firm. On Dec. 10, Mastercard announced that it won’t allow its cards to be used on after finding illegal content on the streaming platform, and Visa also suspended acceptance of its cards on the site until it completes its own investigation. Discover soon followed suit, banning it on Dec. 11.

PornHub is the world’s top video streaming platform specialized in adult content, and it attracts 3.5 billion visits a month, more than Netflix, Yahoo or Amazon. The content is submitted by the service’s users—much like happens on YouTube—and it is presumably impossible to have a human review all the 6.8 million new videos posted on the site each year. This—Kristol said—has far reaching consequences:

“A great majority of the 6.8 million new videos posted on the site each year probably involve consenting adults, but many depict child abuse and nonconsensual violence. Because it’s impossible to be sure whether a youth in a video is 14 or 18, neither Pornhub nor anyone else has a clear idea of how much content is illegal.”

The article cites the mother of a 15-year-old girl who went missing in Florida, who later found her daughter on PornHub, and the video of a sexual assault against a 14-year-old California girl that was also hosted on the platform. In both cases, the perpetrators were apprehended by law enforcement.

Earlier today,  PornHub removed almost all of the videos from its website and said it has “banned unverified uploaders from posting new content, eliminated downloads” and “suspended all previously uploaded content that was not created by content partners or members of the Model Program.”

Crypto’s crime and image problem

While moving to cryptocurrency as a payment option makes sense for PornHub as it scrambles to recover, it doesn’t help cryptocurrency’s image as a shield criminals can hide behind.

In April, blockchain intelligence firm Chainalysis issued a report that found the number of child pornography buyers and sellers using crypto—mainly bitcoin—has increased substantially in the past two years. While calling it a “troubling trend” the report noted that this still represents a tiny portion of the overall use of bitcoin as a currency. 

At the same time, law enforcement’s ability to track bitcoin transactions is expanding, as seen by the shutdown of “Welcome to Video,” a major child pornography website, in October.

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Adrian is a newswriter based out of Pisa, Italy. He's passionate about cryptocurrency, digital rights, IT, tech and futurology and likes to think about the future in a positive way.