Sex Workers and Legal Advocates File Federal Trade Commission Complaint Against Mastercard

August 30, 2023 10:53 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union, Hacking//Hustling, and a coalition of sex-worker-led, anti-trafficking, and LGBTQ organizations urge the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Mastercard regarding its adult content policy.

First implemented in 2021, Mastercard’s policy imposes stringent registration, monitoring, and reporting requirements on adult content websites that use Mastercard’s credit card or payment processing options. Since its implementation, Mastercard’s payment policy has forced sex workers into arduous mazes of verification and regulation, requiring multiple levels of identity verification and putting needless bureaucracy in the way of legal conduct and speech. A recent report shows data on the impact of this policy on sex workers, including accounts flagged and closed, content removed, lost time and wages from the confusion and procedural hurdles, and large drops in sales and income.

“The pornography subject to these restrictions is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment,” reads the complaint filed to the FTC. “However, company policy makes it impossible for payment providers to provide services to anyone who engages in it. Mastercard’s vague and ambiguous policy requirements, coupled with the dangerous combination of platform overcompliance and inadequate automated tools, has led to the vast censorship of this entirely lawful category of speech. By chilling this particular form of protected free speech, Mastercard has destabilized businesses and, most notably, the lives of thousands of adult content creators.”

“For close to two years, sex workers and adult content creators have had their rights and their livelihoods targeted by Mastercard’s needless and dangerous policy,” said LaLa Zannell, trans justice campaign manager for the ACLU. “Far from protecting the vulnerable, this policy denies sex workers safety, dignity, and equality under the law all while censoring lawful speech. We call on the commission to listen to the voices and experiences of sex workers and put an end to this discriminatory policy.”

Hacking//Hustling is a collective of sex workers, survivors, and accomplices working at the intersection of technology and social justice to interrupt violence facilitated by technology. The ACLU has supported decriminalizing sex work since 1973 and continues to work to ensure that sex workers have equal access to legal protections.



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