WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday filed a formal complaint asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Mastercard for discriminatory practices against sex workers and adult content websites.
The ACLU filed the complaint along with sex worker collective Hacking//Hustling and a coalition of sex worker-led, anti-trafficking and LGBTQ+ organizations.
The ACLU-led coalition of organizations and advocates expressed its opposition to Mastercard’s 2021 policies for adult content websites using its credit card or payment options, and urged the FTC “to open an investigation and put an end to these discriminatory and dangerous practices,” the ACLU announced through a statement Tuesday.
Mastercard’s policies — imposing requirements such as pre-approval of all content before publication, forbidding certain search terms, and keeping records of age and identity verification for all performers — “not only restrict free speech and harm the livelihood of sex workers, but fail to make adult content platforms safer,” the ACLU asserted, also emphasizing “the harm such practices pose for Black, immigrant, and transgender sex workers especially.”
Mastercard's Discriminatory Practices: the Result of Anti-Porn Pressure
As XBIZ has been reporting, Mastercard’s policy change was the result of pressure from an ad-hoc alliance of self-appointed finance sector activists like controversial billionaire Bill Ackman; religiously motivated anti-porn groups and crusaders such as NCOSE, Exodus Cry and Laila Mickelwait; and their spokespersons and backers in the mainstream press, such as Nicholas Kristof and his New York Times opinion section editors.
Adult content, the ACLU noted, is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment.
“As our complaint explains, Mastercard’s vague and ambiguous policy requirements, coupled with the dangerous combination of platform over-compliance and inadequate automated tools, has led to the vast censorship of this entirely lawful category of speech,” the organization’s statement continued.
The ACLU also pointed out that Mastercard’s discriminatory payment policy has “forced sex workers into arduous — and often impossible — mazes of verification and regulation, requiring multiple levels of identity verification and putting needless bureaucracy in the way of legal conduct and speech. As a result, sex workers are losing income and stability.”
“When sex workers are pushed off of digital platforms, they’re forced into more dangerous and more onerous means of survival,” the organization cautioned.
Main Image: The unfortunately still-relevant banking discrimination scene in “Boogie Nights” (1997)