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The offices of MindGeek, owner of Pornhub website, seen in Montreal on Dec. 9, 2020.Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

A Liberal MP is set to introduce a motion Friday requesting the top executives of MindGeek and its Pornhub website to appear before a House of Commons committee amid allegations the company was showing videos of rape and child exploitation.

The calls for accountability emerge as Mastercard said it would ban the use of its credit card on Pornhub because it found “unlawful content” on the pornography site, and as Visa suspends the use of its card pending its investigation.

Last week, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that the site makes money off child rapes, revenge pornography and scenes of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags, detailing the accounts of those whose videos were posted without their consent.

MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said it is politicians’ obligation to hold companies accountable when they “so incredibly failed to protect people.” Mr. Erskine-Smith said he plans to move a motion at the House of Commons ethics committee, where his is not currently a member but is subbing in on Friday. He said he wants to request the appearance of Feras Antoon and David Tassillo, who were named in the New York Times article, and other appropriate witnesses.

MindGeek, which was founded in Montreal and maintains an office there, has expanded its operations to other cities around the world and is headquartered in Luxembourg. Registration documents in Luxembourg show that as of 2019, MindGeek was beneficially owned by Canadian citizens Mr. Antoon and Mr. Tassillo.

Mr. Erskine-Smith said he is expecting members of the committee to support his motion, saying it is not a partisan issue and members of other parties have raised the allegations against MindGeek and Pornhub in the House of Commons.

“They should be held to a degree of public accountability where they’re going to have to answer questions from elected representatives,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mastercard said its investigation into the company confirmed violations of its standards prohibiting unlawful content on their site.

“As a result, and in accordance with our policies, we instructed the financial institutions that connect the site to our network to terminate acceptance. In addition, we continue to investigate potential illegal content on other websites to take the appropriate action,” said Seth Eisen, the company’s senior vice-president of communications.

Visa said that given the allegations of illegal activity, it is “suspending Pornhub’s acceptance privileges pending the completion of our ongoing investigation,” and said it is instructing the financial institutions that serve MindGeek to suspend the processing of payments through the Visa network.

Pornhub said the actions of Mastercard and Visa are “exceptionally disappointing,” as they come two days after the company brought in new safeguards. Those include banning unverified users from uploading content, which they pointed out Thursday is a measure no other online platform has put in place.

“This news is crushing for the hundreds of thousands of models who rely on our platform for their livelihoods,” Pornhub said. Pornhub did not respond to questions about whether executives would voluntarily appear before a House committee or about Mr. Antoon and Mr. Tassillo’s positions with the company.

Earlier this week, Pornhub pushed back against the allegations in The New York Times, saying that any assertion the website allows child-sexual-abuse material is “irresponsible and flagrantly untrue.” Pornhub on Tuesday posted on its website a series of safeguards, changes that apply to MindGeek’s other sites, too.

Those measures include implementing a verification process in the new year, which would allow users to upload content after completing an identification protocol, and removing the ability for users to download content, with the exception of paid downloads within its verified model program. They also include expanding its moderation with a new team dedicated to auditing the platform for potentially illegal material, which is in addition to an existing team of human moderators dedicated to manually reviewing every upload. It said it will release a transparency report detailing its content moderation results from the previous year.

Mr. Erskine-Smith said it is not enough for the company to say it is taking measures and issuing a report, and that it should have to answer for some of the damage the platform has done to society.

Gail Dines, a professor emerita who has researched the porn industry for decades and runs the organization Culture Reframed, said MindGeek is like “the Amazon of the porn industry.” Prof. Dines pushed back against the idea that the company can regulate itself, questioning how a moderator could tell someone is underage.

“It should be government regulated. … It shouldn’t be self-regulation. It’s like asking the tobacco industry to self-regulate,” she said.

With a report from Joe Castaldo

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