2021 Mastercard Adult compliance

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June 25, 2023, by Stefan Dekker

What do 2021 Mastercard requirements mean for your adult business?

Mastercard sent out a statement on On October 15, 2021 saying they had made revisions to their policies for adult content merchants that effects the entire adult industry from the self publisher to the large websites servicing the industry.

This means anyone using Mastercard in order to process payments was affected and now must abide by much more stringent rules or risk loosing their merchant account and possibly be fined as well.

At MerchantScout, we have been helping high risk merchants, including those in the adult industry, to secure their merchant accounts and assist in keeping those accounts compliant. We believe these revisions are important for anyone accepting payments in the adult industry, so we’ve created this guide on what they mean for your business how to handle them.

The infamous list of requirements

  • All content must be accompanied by a written consent form from the content producer demonstrating proof of identity and legal age limit including all third-party users that upload or generate content including live streams.
  • Distributors of adult content must have a process of verifying the identity and age of anyone uploading or producing content for their website or platform. If the third party cannot produce these requirements, their content cannot be accepted or must be taken down if it already exists on their platform but cannot be verified.
  • Have a system in place for removal requests, disputes or copyright issues regarding content that contains an individual within the content and is stating their consent was not given.
  • Publishers must pre-screen all content being uploaded to ensure it is being used legally and all of Mastercard’s rules and regulations are being adhered to.
  • Publishers must have complete control over their platforms for live streaming with the ability to monitor and remove any content being streamed that goes against MasterCard's polices.
  • No marketing materials are allowed to suggest any illegal activities such as child pornography or nonconsensual or violent sexual acts.
  • MasterCard has the right, upon request, to look at any content on a website that is behind a paywall and uses their payment processing or logo.
  • A monthly report must be submitted by the acquirer that lists all complaints, flagged content or removal requests and how they were handled by the publisher.
  • Incorporate effective policies that prohibit a merchant’s website from being used to promote human trafficking, sex trafficking, or physical abuse of any kind.
  • Why exactly Mastercard did this?

    MasterCard updated their policies regarding high risk merchants in order to maintain their brand identity and awareness and to mitigate any potential entanglements regarding illegal activities that can tarnish their global brand as well as the merchants and banks that use MasterCard for payment processing services.

    These revisions were in no way meant to limit the merchants that produce adult content nor the people involved in the industry. Rather, they were meant to protect individual’s rights as far as privacy, copyright and trafficking abuses by creating a system where illegal actives can be reported and acted upon in a timely manner.

    And although the incorporation of these policies into your business may seem overwhelming, we having been helping high risk merchants keep their portfolios up to date and compliant with industry standards for over 15 years. Contact MerchantScout now.

    How does this affect independent content creators?

    Even though a majority of these newer rules and regulations MasteCard has imposed on the adult content industry were meant to stop illegal activity both on and offline, there are still many independent content creators that are on sites such as OnlyFans and Twitch that rely on MasterCard for their private payment processors.

    Many independent workers in the adult industry stream live events, and while consent and age verification regulations can be easily handled by each creator, the pre-screening or ability to block their own content raises significant questions.

    After all, the ability to create live content or film and publish content as an independent creator is why these creators can produce a lot of content quickly. And stemming this ability can greatly affect the overall income of each creator.

    What has happened since

    A Researchgate study that was published in February 2022 asked 100 different independent adult content creators what the specif effects MasterCard’s revisions have had on their personal business as far as adhering to policies and in financial terms.

    The results clearly demonstrate that MasterCard’s reviions have negatvely affected many of the content creators in many different ways, leaving many to wonder what the future of their businesses will look like.

    Over 90% of the people who took part in the survey stated they had at leat one major setback do to the changes. These ranged from, ‘having an account flagged or closed, having to collect updated ID, having to remove content for thematic or redundant documentation rules, delays when having to reupload material for review, payment interruptions, or having a merchant account closed. Nearly half of respondents (49%) suffered 4-6 different detrimental impacts.’

    And as far as income lost, creators in the Fetish or BDSM spaces were impacted up to 1.4 times worse and Queer content took hits of 1.5 times more than other types of content.

    In addition, after Visa and Mastercard already both suspended anyone’s ability to use a card with their logo to pay for anything on the PornHub site in 2020, then in August 2022 they went further by not allowing anyone to use their cards for even advertising or buying ads on PornHub.

    Both companies have also tightened their policies to become more inline with MasterCard’s although they are still seen as not as strict.

    More potential problems

    One of the biggest potential problems is that with the new guidelines, even independent content creators must abide by all rules and regulations, usually meant for much larger operations.

    This means they must also show written consent and IDs for anyone appearing in any content they produce and charge for. The problem is these independent workers are now in possession of sensitive personal records of their employees which can end up a security risk for those working as an employee.

    And even for the larger corporations that do have procedures in place for gathering these types of personal information, there is even a greater risk that their employees records can be leaked or hacked.

    Then there is the simple question of freedom of speech and censorship. Many types of content had to be removed according to the study quoted above do to acts being anything more than ‘normal sex’.

    Most fetish, hardcore or gay trans sexual content was regarded as going against MasterCard’s TOS even though all acts were in every other way up to their policy standards as far as their other host of rules and needed to be removed or the creator’s account would be banned.

    And what about the customers? People who have already paid for certain types of content that is now ‘banned’ or not accepted due to the changes? There are still many unanswered questions and it takes a lot to stay up to date with all that is even now going on.

    So even if you’re a solopreneur or independent performer, we can help. Contact MerchantScout today for a walkthrough on how we can work with you to get your business back on track.

    Additional problems for streamers

    The biggest fear for adult merchants is the fact that these revisions state that streamer’s accounts can be terminated should there be suspicion of any breach of terms of services.

    If we take a look at Twitch, one of the most popular categories as of late has been “hot-tub/pool.” In this category, it is usually persons who are using Twitch to point customers at their adult-appropriate content.

    Companies will need to decide their policies with Mastercard moving forward. If Mastercard or Twitch determines that you are using the platform to push your adult content without following the regulations, your account will be terminated.

    This can get muddy when Twitch streamers aren’t doing anything against the terms of services of Twitch; however, they are still terminated. Should known adult-streamers use Twitch yet follow their terms of service, Twitch can still say that they are suspicious of their activity and ultimately terminate their account.

    To mitigate risk, reaching out to Twitch and whichever websites you are streaming on in advance is recommended.

    Our conclusion

    Many of these revisions are being put in place for good causes that aim to ensure safety and legal activity. However, one of the biggest fears is that social media companies will stop dealing with adult content entirely.

    Aside from streamers taking a significant loss, social media companies will likely also take a hit, depending on their stance and whether or not they choose to still display adult-related advertisements.

    Start live chat now with our experts via Telegram, Skype, or WhatsApp, to discover how we can help your adult business to accept card payments in this new environment.

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