Pornography can be defeated!
Without the flow of money, the flood of pornographic digital images, that has swamped the Internet during the last two decades, would slow to a trickle. That flow has been interrupted by the gallant efforts of Serena Fleites; a young woman who is little more than twenty years old.
The New York Post’s Ariel Zilber reported on August 4, 2022, that “Visa has suspended payments for ads on Pornhub and its parent company MindGeek after the credit card giant was accused by a woman of facilitating the dissemination of child pornography on the website.”[i] For some, like Serena Fleites, the day of reckoning for this porn leviathan cannot come soon enough.
A few years ago, Serena Fleites was in the eighth grade. Today Serena is the Plaintiff in a legal action, Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L, et. al., filed against pornography giant Mindgeek, the owner of Pornhub. Given the size of her opponent, Serena seems to have picked a fight she may not be able to win. According to a Psychology Today article posted March 15, 2018, by Michael Castleman, M.A., in 2017, PornHub claimed “28.5 billion total visits. That’s 81 million a day, almost 4 million an hour, 56,000 a minute.”[ii] That is a good-sized flood of smutty images.
Serena has made the following allegations in her Complaint, which was filed during 2021 in a Federal District Court in California:
“In 2014, Plaintiff was thirteen years old… At that time, a sexually explicit video featuring Plaintiff titled “13-Year-Old Brunette Shows Off For The Camera” was available on Pornhub.com, a pornography website owned and operated by MindGeek…Plaintiff’s then-boyfriend pressured her into making the video and posted it without her knowledge or consent… MindGeek also took the video and posted it to its other pornography websites. …The video garnered 400,000 views by the time Plaintiff discovered it… MindGeek earned revenue from advertisements that appeared alongside the video….”[iii]
As a result of this one-time video, Serena further alleges that “Plaintiff’s life spiraled out of control. She was harassed and bullied in school to such a degree that she started skipping school and finally unenrolled to attend courses online…Plaintiff did not tell her mother about the video, and so her relationship with her mother became strained, as her mother did not know why her daughter had suddenly begun to skip classes…This led to Plaintiff leaving her mother’s home to move in with her sister…
“A year later, she moved back in with her mother, whereafter …[Serena]… attempted to hang herself, only to be stopped by her younger sister and her mother’s boyfriend ‘who removed the power cord from her neck’… She would attempt suicide several times in the ensuing years…Plaintiff did not want to face her family after the first suicide attempt, and so she moved in with a friend… At her friend’s house, an older man introduced Plaintiff to heroin…Plaintiff became addicted…To fund her heroin addiction, Plaintiff—still a minor at this point—created sexually explicit videos at the older man’s behest, who in turn sold the videos on Craigslist…Some of the videos were uploaded to Pornhub and were still available on the website as recently as June 2020…
“MindGeek uploaded these videos to its other pornographic websites and earned ad revenue from the videos…While MindGeek profited from the child porn featuring Plaintiff, Plaintiff was intermittently homeless or living in her car, addicted to heroin, depressed and suicidal, and without the support of her family.”[iv]
Visa Inc, is also named as a Defendant in Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L Visa is alleged to have “recognized MindGeek as an authorized merchant and processed payments to its websites including but not limited to Pornhub,”[v] and that, “Visa knew MindGeek’s sites contained a substantial amount of child porn “and also knew that in November 2019 Visa’s competitor PayPal terminated its relationship with MindGeek, issuing a public statement that ‘[PayPal] explicitly prohibits the use of [its] services for the sale of materials that depict criminal behavior.’” [vi]
Visa moved the Court to dismiss the claims against it, but in denying Visa’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims, the Court stated in its July 29, 2022 Opinion,
“Visa lent to MindGeek a much-needed tool—its payment network—with the alleged knowledge that there was a wealth of monetized child porn on MindGeek’s websites…If Visa was aware that there was a substantial amount of child porn on MindGeek’s sites, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the proceedings, then it was aware that it was processing the monetization of child porn, moving money from advertisers to MindGeek for advertisements playing alongside child porn like Plaintiff’s videos. And so, after opening the door, Visa was there at the end of the line, too, performing the final act necessary … the movement of money.”[vii]
Despite Visa’s self-serving protestation that Visa was just “[m]aintaining a neutral stance …[that]… is the vital for the free flow of commerce,”[viii] the Court, in its Opinion, otherwise succinctly characterized Visa’s role in this process of the “monetization of child porn,” stating:
“Yet, here is Visa, standing at and controlling the valve, insisting that it cannot be blamed for the water spill because someone else is wielding the hose.”[ix]
The Court’s July 29, 2022 ruling in Serena’s case sent shockwaves through the financial industry. Fearing that credit card companies might be held liable for illegal content on the user-generated pornography website, it was reported by WorldNewsEra.com that “Visa and Mastercard will stop working with the advertising arm of MindGeek…”[x] It will be interesting to see how this case ends. Allegations must eventually be proven in court. However, the damage is done. The victimization of Serena has already taken place, and she is only one of millions of the people who have been damaged, one way or another, by the pornography industry.
The complexities of the problems society now faces because of pornography are challenging to people of faith. As reported by counselors Wendy and Larry Maltz in their 2008 book, The Porn Trap, “[j]ust a generation ago only a small minority of people would have been considered regular pornography users. Today pornography reaches an unprecedented number of people of all ages and from all walks of life, and it reaches them 365 days a year, 24/7. In the United States alone 40 million people visit Internet pornography sites at least once a month. Some visit for only a few minutes at a time, while others stay for hours on a regular basis. A whopping 25% of all daily Internet search engine requests and 35% of all downloads are for pornography.” [xi]
However, every challenge also brings opportunity. As Nelson Mandela once said, "It always seems impossible until it's done." [xii]
For example, in the 1800’s one religious leader, John Wesley, challenged one political leader, William Wilberforce, to do something about the pernicious evil of slavery then existing in the British Empire. In a letter dated February 24, 1791,[xiii] Wesley, encouraged Wilberforce to:
“… be as “Athanasius Against the World” … be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.”
Due to the efforts of Wilberforce, the slave trade in the British Empire was abolished in 1807. On July 26, 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the British Parliament, emancipating all slaves. Three days later Wilberforce died.[xiv]
Using the example of Wilberforce, one modern-day religious leader has issued a similar challenge about the pernicious evil of pornography. In his book, The Death of Porn, Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility, pastor and author Ray Ortlund, Jr. asks,
“What about us today? What if not just one man but a whole generation of men takes a bold stand against the new slave trade of our time – pornography. Slavery is not gone. It's still going strong, but in a new form. Multitudes of men and women are in bondage to the degrading slavery of pornography… [w]hich makes porn a justice issue … Many people in our day just accept it - the way people accepted racialized slavery back then. That's why Wesley mentioned “Athanasius against the world.” Athanasius was a heroic man who went up against impossible odds confronting a major wrong in his time for the sake of future generations. And he won because God was with him - the way God is with you today.”[xv]
Pornography can be defeated! It can be done! It must be done!
[i] https://nypost.com/2022/08/04/visa-suspends-card-payments-for-ads-on-pornhub-in-wake-of-lawsuit/ [ii] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201803/surprising-new-data-the-world-s-most-popular-porn-site [iii] Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 2 of 33 Page ID #:2958: https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf [iv] Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 3,4 of 33 Page ID #:2959 https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf [v] Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 7 of 33 Page ID #:2963 https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf [vi] Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 8 of 33 Page ID https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf [vii][vii]Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 12 of 33 Page ID #:2967 https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf [viii]Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 8 of 33 Page ID #:2967 https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf f [ix] Fleites v. Mindgeek S.A.R.L., 2021 U.S. Dist. (C.D. Cal.,) Case 2:21-cv-04920-CJC-ADS Document 166 Filed 07/29/22 Page 13 of 33 Page ID #:2967 https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614/gov.uscourts.cacd.823614.166.0.pdf [x] https://worldnewsera.com/news/finance/stock-market/visa-and-mastercard-cut-ties-with-ad-arm-of-pornhub-owner-mindgeek/#:~:text=Visa%20and%20Mastercard%20will%20stop%20working%20with%20the%20advertising%20arm%20of%20MindGeek%2C%20the%20owner%20of%20Pornhub%2C%20after%20a%20court%20ruling%20found%20that%20Visa%20could%20be%20held%20liable%20for%20illegal%20content%20on%20the%20user%2Dgenerated%20pornography%20website. [xi] Maltz, Wendy and Maltz, Larry; (2008) The porn trap - the essential guide to overcoming problems caused by pornography, p.4, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, New York. [xii] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/36606-it-always-seems-impossible-until-it-s-done [xiii] https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-2/wesley-to-wilberforce.html [xiv] https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Wilberforce [xv] Ortlund, Raymond C., Jr., (2021) The death of porn: men of integrity building a world of nobility, E-book, p 17., Crossway, Wheaton Illinois.