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Mastercard investigates Pornhub for allegations of child abuse

New York(CNN Business) Mastercard is investigating allegations against, after a New York Times column on Friday accused the porn site of hosting videos on its platform that depict child abuse and nonconsensual sexual behavior.

The credit card company, which accepts payments on the website, said on Sunday it has "zero tolerance for illegal activity" on its network and that it works closely with law enforcement and organizations such as the National and International Center for Missing and Exploited Children to detect and prevent those types of transactions.

"We are investigating the allegations raised in the New York Times and are working with [Pornhub parent company] MindGeek's bank to understand this situation, in addition to the other steps they have already taken. If the claims are substantiated, we will take immediate action," Mastercard (MA) said in a statement to CNN Business. "When we identify illegal activity, our policy is to ask the acquirer to terminate the relationship, unless an effective compliance plan is put in place."

The investigation comes after a Times' column, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof, described recordings on Pornhub's website of assaults of unconscious women and girls, including a naked video of a 14-year-old girl. He wrote that Pornhub allows videos to be downloaded directly from its site, leaving room for content to spread and be reuploaded to the internet even after it's been taken down.

Pornhub denied the allegations, stating that any assertion it allows child sex abuse material (CSAM) on its platform is "irresponsible and flagrantly untrue."

"Due to the nature of our industry, people's preconceived notions of Pornhub's values and processes often differ from reality — but it is counterproductive to ignore the facts regarding a subject as serious as CSAM, " Pornhub said in a statement to CNN Business. "We have zero tolerance for CSAM. Pornhub is unequivocally committed to combating CSAM, and has instituted an industry-leading trust and safety policy to identify and eradicate illegal material from our community."

Credit card payments on pornographic websites have long been a point of contention, with many activists calling for the suspension of these type of transactions on adult websites.

In a tweet on Saturday in response to the Times' column, hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman called for card companies to either withhold payments or withdraw ties with Pornhub until the issue is fixed.

Financial service company American Express prohibits its cards from being accepted on Pornhub, citing a longstanding policy that prohibits cards from being used on digital adult content sites, according to an American Express (AXP) spokesperson.

PayPal (PYPL) also doesn't process payments for Pornhub. The company stopped doing so in 2019.

Visa (V) said it is aware of the allegations and is "actively engaging with the relevant financial institutions to investigate, in addition to engaging directly with the site's parent company, MindGeek."

"If the site is identified as not complying with applicable laws or the financial institutions' acceptable use policies and underwriting standards they will no longer be able to accept Visa payments," Visa told CNN Business in a statement.

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