Visa Cracks Down on Violent Verbiage Used in a Sexual Context

CYBERSPACE—Don't ask why Visa/MasterCard is doing this now. You will never receive an answer. You might as well use Tarot cards to explain the rationale behind the decision by the card association to ramp up enforcement of restrictions on the use of certain terms and the posting of certain content to paysites. If they spoke to the adult media—which they do not—the superior beings at Visa/MC would say that they are just reminding people of established terms and conditions, but don't believe it. Off-the-record accounts of the extreme number of hours being expended to get into compliance by today indicate a significant change in policy.

More specifically, Visa is asking paysite operators by way of third-party billers and merchant banks to cease using certain terms in certain contexts—for example, the use of the word "forced" when combined with "orgasm," or the use of the word "torture" when combined with ... well, probably any sexual activity. Again, why this is being done now is unknown, but Visa/MasterCard appears to be very serious in its intent to remove from websites that accept the cards any hint of sexual activity that could be perceived as violent, even if it is consensual.

For merchant account holders, the new rules are being communicated by way of the annual web review that every paysite has to undergo as part of the credit card compliance regimen. In addition to gathering important information about website operations—such as an updated list of domains using the merchant account, user names and passwords for members areas, and information about 2257 compliance—the annual review also provide an easy mechanism for the card association to reframe its requirements. Such changes are usually made with no explanation, and are sometimes not even provided in written form, but delivered verbally by the billing entities.

There is nothing new at all about the hoops that Visa/MasterCard force merchants to jump through, and nothing new about their apparent intolerance for underage content, bestiality, violent sexual imagery and the terminology that often accompanies such content. But even though the workload this latest demand has required is by all account extreme for some people, anyone who wants to continue processing with Visa (i.e., everyone) won't hesitate to comply.