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A Pornhub banner at the 2017 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Getty)
  • MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga explained the company's decision to cut ties with the popular pornography website Pornhub as a measure of legality rather than morality in a new interview with The New York Times.
  • "Porn's not illegal," Banga said. "It's certain kinds of porn that are illegal. So child porn is, and that's what we saw — and that's why we pulled out."
  • Banga called morality-based decisions a "slippery slope," and cited his own aversion to guns as an example. "Is alcohol bad? This has happened with guns in the past. Are birth control pills bad?" he said. "At the end of the day, I have to follow a legal standard — I'm not trying to follow a moral standard."
  • A New York Times column from early December accused Pornhub of hosting child pornography.
  • Visa and Mastercard launched investigations into the side and both later pulled their charging services from Pornhub. Pornhub has since announced plans to verify all the content on its platform.
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In a new interview, outgoing MasterCard CEO explained the company's decision to cut off the popular pornography website Pornhub as a measure of applying legal standards rather than moralistic ones.

"We went back and we looked and we found actually instances where clearly the legal standard of what should be allowed on Pornhub had been crossed," MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga said in a podcast interview with the New York Times. "So we went back to Pornhub and said, 'Sorry, you've crossed the legal standard.'"

Both Visa and Mastercard launched investigations into the site following a New York Times column that alleged Pornhub was hosting videos that the column's author, Nicholas Kristof, said were recordings of assaults on unconscious women and girls. One week later, both companies pulled payment services from Pornhub.

Banga repeatedly stressed the importance of the distinction between morality and legality, and referred to morality based decisions as a "slippery slope" for his company.

"For example: I've had people ask me why couldn't MasterCard cut off merchants who sell guns?" he said. "That's really interesting, because you know Walmart sells guns and ammunition and diapers. And I don't know what you bought, so I don't know how to cut it off. And trying to make that point has been one of the most interesting things, because people go right past that."

Banga also pointed to marijuana sales in the USA, which are legal in 11 of its states but remains illegal on a federal scale.

"Different states legalized the sale of marijuana, but we can't allow our cards to be used to buy them because the federal government hasn't legalized it," he said. "So we follow that standard, and that's what we've been doing all this time."

As for why MasterCard didn't move to investigate Pornhub sooner, Banga said simply, "We couldn't find it."

Pornhub denied the initial allegations from Kristof's column, and has since made several major changes: The site no longer allows anyone to upload videos, and requires anyone uploading to go through a verification process first. It also removed tens of millions of videos that no longer qualify for publishing under those new standards.

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