Visa Against "Deviant Behavior"

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a similar announcement earlier this month by MasterCard International that its card services will not be used for illegal activities, Visa is following in it competitors footsteps and making credit card transactions for pornography sites even more difficult than before.

Visa made an announcement this week that it doesn't want to have its card services used on Internet sites selling child pornography or sites that feature other "depictions of sexually deviant behavior," like bestiality and rape.

According to ABC News, over the past year Visa has set up a system to identify child pornographers. That information is made readily available to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), or any other organization that is hunting down child pornographers.

Additionally, Visa has asked an estimated 7,000 financial institutions to register "high-risk merchants" who process adult content with Visa credit card services. According to ABC, if those institutions do not follow Visa's directive, they risk being cut off from card privileges entirely, which are nearly impossible to gain back once lost.

"The legitimate adult site industry is against child pornography," Joan Irvine, executive director for Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP), told XBiz. "The industry already complies with the current Visa and MasterCard regulations. ASACP supports the efforts of Visa, MasterCard, and NCMEC. We all want to see the illegal sites that try to harm the children and the reputation of the professionals in the industry stopped."

Visa claims to have played a hand in shutting down at least 400 websites allegedly involved in the trafficking of child pornography. The credit card behemoth started using a company called InteCap several years ago to track its financial transactions over the Internet. InteCap reportedly monitors upwards of 1 million web pages a day for illegal activities.

"This is a powerful new tool to assist law enforcement in these crimes, to eliminate a resource for individuals to use, download, and purchase pornography," Reuben Rodriguez, director of the exploited-child unit at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told ABC News.

The clamp down on having its card services used for the purchase of child porn, or membership to sites that feature child porn, began several years ago, Visa says.

A bulletin published last week by MasterCard took a similar stand by pinpointing the porn industry, gaming, and prescription drug businesses as being high-risk industries that are most likely to conduct nefarious financial transactions.

According to MasterCard, the porn industry accounts for at least 50 percent of all online fraud and gaming accounts for only 5 percent.

"We're issuing the bulletin to remind our global membership that MasterCard does not tolerate illegal activities of any kind," the company stated. MasterCard also reminded users that at any given time, failure to comply with its stringent policy could lead to slew of penalties, which would include the termination of membership.

MasterCard claims that its recent warning to the porn industry and others is based on the increasing amount of Internet fraud and the use of MasterCard "for activities that may not be legal in all jurisdictions," the company said in a statement.

The credit card giant also warned the Internet community that it is working alongside federal and state law enforcement agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to get a handle on Internet fraud, child pornography, and other illegal activities that its card services might be used for.

Representatives for Visa were not available at the time of this printing.

Since 1996, ASACP has provided a vehicle for self-regulation to the adult industry through its Hotline, Approved Member program, (http://www.asacp.org/membership.html) and Best Practices (http://www.asacp.org/bestpractices.html).