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June 12, 2023, by Stefan Dekker

Consent & Takedown; What exactly is it?

Once again the Card Schemes, specifically Mastercard, are making life a lot harder for those that are in the adult industry by implementing new regulations when it comes to requiring merchants to establish consent, age, and identity verification processes.

Although these changes are geared towards preventing illegal activities and protecting individuals privacy rights through tougher monitoring, they are having a serious negative impact on the industry as a whole, and one area that is highly affected is takedown requests.

Takedown requests are common in the adult industry and anyone can request that content that violates copyright, privacy, or other laws be taken down or if the site doesn’t feel they are violating anyone's rights, they will need to demonstrate proof they are not violating any of these guidelines.

That means takedown requests will become more critical than ever since merchants will need to establish consent, age, and identity verification processes and channels to communicate with those submitting these requests.

Now, if someone believes your content violates the new regulations, you’ll need a way for them to file an actual complaint and have a process for handling them whether they are valid or not. Even if the claims prove to be false, you’ll still need to show proof of consent, age and so on.

In fact, Mastercard has gone as far as stating they are now requiring "clear, unambiguous and documented consent" for any adult content on a site that is using their payment processors.

It’s important to note that Mastercard and Visa have complaint forms to which someone can submit any website whether the complaint is factual or not.

We recommend also checking out our complete guide to Mastercard adult revisions.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how the new regulations impact takedown requests in the adult industry and explore what you need to know to stay compliant.

What you need to know

Credit card brands like Visa and Mastercard are implementing stricter requirements for all adult content merchants and have implemented strict guidelines all merchants must adhere to including having to establish consent, age, and identity verification processes for anyone found on their sites as well as support channels for complaint processes and illegal content takedown requests.

  • These new requirements may hurt independent performers and those using newsfeed-style sites and social media to promote themselves, but the adult industry has been targeted before and always finds way to become more adaptable
  • Takedown request investigations are not violations or final
  • Takedown investigations are led by credit card companies themselves
  • A reputable payment processor can help your business stay compliant with these recent changes
  • It has never been more important to ensure brand compliance
  • What actually is a Takedown

    Simply put, a takedown request is a formal request by an individual or entity to remove specific content from a website or platform. This can be a DMCA takedown notice or a takedown request submitted to the website itself or even the ISP of the website.

    All the entity submitting the request needs to do is to show that the content was uploaded without their consent, is copy written content and the violator does not have authorization for its use, or in some way the content violates the new regulations set out by credit card companies and payment processors.

    For a long time the adult industry has ignored or looked at such requests as a case by case basis, but now with the new stricter rules placed on the industry by the credit card companies, merchants need to establish and adhere to a standard complaint process for reporting and removing illegal content.

    This is just one of many steps being taken to regulate the industry so that individuals are not having their rights or privacy impeded upon. So, what’s Visa’s global brand protection, and how does it relate to these changes?

    What to do when under investigation?

    If your business is being investigated the first thing to do is to take the situation seriously and clearly understand what steps wil be needed in order to ensure your company’s compliance and avoid any penalties. Here are some things to keep in mind during an investigation:

    Cooperate fully: Always comply with whatever Mastercard's investigation team requests. Give them whatever information that ask for in a friendly and timely manner or it's possible your merchant account will be terminated.

    Review your policies: Make sure the policies you have in place cover all of the credit card's guidelines. If they don't, start updating them immediately!

    Communicate with your Acquirer: Your Acquirer is experienced at helping individuals understand and get through the process of staying compliant. Always be completely open with them so they can help you address any issues.

    If you understand the investigation process clearly it'll help you to avoid penalties and maintain compliance. In the next section we will go over what's needed from you to satisfy any credit card company's investigations.

    Information you'll need to present

    During a Mastercard investigation you’ll need to be sure to offer complete and accurate information about your policies and procedures in order to stay compliant and to avoid any sort of penalties or marks against your company. The information you’ll need to submit includes:

    • Your consent
    • Age
    • Identity verification processes
    • Complaint process for violating content and takedown requests
    • Marketing and search terms policies

    This should satisfy their requests and prove your company is not allowing non-consensual activities or child exploitation materials.

    Your policies should also state clearly that your operation doesn’t allow any sort of material that promotes or facilitates human trafficking, sex trafficking, or any sort of physical abuse. Any flagged content that demonstrates otherwise should be reported to your acquirer on a monthly basis so they are prepared to respond to any inquiries from your merchant processing account.

    One of the best ways to prevent problems and stay compliant is to review all uploaded content before it’s published and to completely control any live streaming events and permit only verified content uploads.

    And although there is some push back from independent workers in the adult industry claiming that these types of rules restrict them from adding their content to platforms in a timely matter, these rules must be adhered to or you can risk losing your merchant account all together which isn’t good for all parties involved.

    How serious is an investigation?

    An investigation is not the same as a violation, it is a means to determine if there are grounds for issuing a violation. A violation means that the investigation did indeed find reasons to take action against your account. These are two separate actions.

    During an investigation you will be given the opportunity to defend yourself against any allegations brought against you or your company. This is the time when you’ll need to show proof that your company is actually fully compliant and you adhered to the merchants rules and regulations. Failure to do so can result in having content forcibly removed, terminating your merchant’s account, or even legal action.

    It’s important to remember that the adult industry regulations by Mastercard and Visa are meant to protect individuals and prevent illegal activities. Staying compliant not only means less headaches for your company, but it also demonstrates your company is promoting safety for all parties.

    The Importance Of Staying Compliant With Visa And Mastercards Adult Regulations:

    Staying compliant with Visa and Mastercard’s regulations for content processing and user-generated content not only helps keep industry workers safe, it’s also a smart long term business strategy that can help your business stay operational in the long run.

    How MerchantScout can help you

    At MerchantScout, we understand that keeping up with all the adult industry’s rules and regulations as well as keeping all of your pertinent information on hand and at the ready can be a daunting task. That’s why we underwrite your account to ensure compliance and monitor all merchant account activity so you are always a step ahead of any actions a credit card processor may take against you.

    Get in touch with MerchantScout's team today.

    * Visa Global Brand Protection in 2023

    Visa’s Global Brand Protection program is designed to specifically protect Visa’s name in the industry. By protecting their brand, they have implemented a plethora of rules and regulations primarily targeted at the adult content trade. Some of these steps are to monitor and remove illegal content from the internet from any merchant using their payment processors.

    This includes any content related to any illegal activities such as human trafficking, child exploitation, and non-consensual activities involving hate, violence or the porn industry. The program uses advanced technology and a team of analysts to detect and remove content that violates Visa’s policies and guidelines.

    As of May 1, 2023, Visa replaced the Global Brand Protection Program with the Visa Integrity Risk Program (VIRP). The Visa Global Acquirer Risk Standards (GARS) are also in place to provide acquirers with a set of risk controls to ensure their compliance with Visa’s terms and conditions.

    Adult merchants must now follow the standards set forth by them including age and identity verification, consent, and complaint processes for violating content and takedown requests. Merchants must also submit monthly reports on their activity to their acquirer.

    If you’re still unsure how exactly this all impacts your business, get in touch with us and let us help you with these confusing issues. At MerchantScout, we make staying compliant easy.

    * Mastercard Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program

    Mastercard’s Business Risk Assessment and Mitigation Program (BRAM) was first launched in 2007 and has evolved to fight illegal and/or brand-damaging activity.

    Specifically, the program requires acquirers to properly classify high-risk merchants such as those in the adult industry and ensure their merchants are not violating any of the guidelines Visa has laid out for them. If found lacking, Mastercard will impose fines or close the violating merchants account.

    It requires high risk merchants to implement strict measures, such as age and identity verification, content review, and complaint processes, to ensure compliance with Mastercard’s standards and prevent illegal activities.

    Just like Visa, Mastercard has followed suit and has begun requiring high risk merchants in the adult industry to submit monthly reports of flagged content and complaints to their acquirer. Any failure to do so can result in account termination or other penalties.

    It’s important to note that the program is not meant to punish businesses operating legally, but rather to target those parties in the industry who are blatantly ignoring and violating the current standards.

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