Card Brand regulations are always changing. Some of the most recent changes came last October from Mastercard, focusing on adult content merchants. The revised standards, known as AN 5196, require that the merchant have effective controls in place to monitor, block, and where necessary, take down all content as appropriate. The standards laid out specific requirements for all adult content merchants and additional requirements for merchants who allow a third-party to upload or generate content. These new regulations were announced over a year ago in April of 2021. A lot of the focus and concern from industry professionals was centered around age verification of models and content creators along with the need to moderate user uploaded content prior to publication. However, one portion of the regulation may not have received as much attention as it should have. It states, “the merchant must not market the content of its website or permit content search terms to give the impression that the content contains child exploitation materials or the depiction of nonconsensual activities.” and goes on to state, “The merchant must not attract users to its website by utilizing adult content that is illegal or otherwise violates the standards” according to the Mastercard regulation.
Mastercard’s compliance program is constantly looking for anything that might put the brand at risk. These standards are designed to not only protect Mastercard’s brand but also to protect the entire ecosystem and ensure that the Mastercard network is not used to facilitate illegal activity. Even those who are diligent in following these regulations “to a T” have found themselves at the center of an inquiry of a Mastercard investigation. This month we wanted to share what to watch out for, how to keep yourself out of the spotlight, and what you need to know to always remain compliant.
Compliance Caution Signs
In the last month, two of our acquirers reached out to us regarding BRAM (Mastercard’s Business Risk Assessment and Mitigation program governing compliance) investigations for two of our merchants after finding their content uploaded on a large popular tube site with titles that alluded that the content was nonconsensual. Upon a deep dive, neither merchant was aware that their content had been uploaded to the tube site, that the wording of the titles had been changed, the description of set had been changed, and that the content had been edited to focus on what appeared to be nonconsensual activities. Despite this, they are technically still responsible for the activity.
Working with the merchants we were able to provide an appropriate response to our acquirers and to Mastercard. Segpay was able to confirm that the merchants were in compliance with Mastercard standards, and we had proof of monthly URL scanning, model releases, contracts, and other items to validate that Segpay had thoroughly vetted our merchants and maintained ongoing oversite of the content. We still don’t have an official response as to the outcome of these investigations, but the risks of non-compliance are high. Non-compliance assessments can result in penalties of USD 200,000, or USD 2,500 a day, and depending on the severity could result in termination of an account.
Remain in Regulation
Now that we highlighted the types of issues being investigated- how can you remain compliant? Remember that you are responsible for your website and all content and search terms that lead to it, be it from a tube site, an affiliate lander or email. If the content implies any illegality, non-consensual activity, or physical abuse with lasting harm you could be getting a knock on the door. Here are our top three ways to work within the regulation:
- Mastercard is serious about its regulations so make sure that not only do your processing websites meet Mastercard compliance standards, but the marketing efforts do too.
- Make sure all content and terms used to market your website meet Mastercard standards.
- The content policies that you have in place for your website are also true and enforced for all the platforms you use to market your website like affiliate landers, blog posts, email campaigns and tube sites.
Top Ways to Stay Out of The BRAM Hot Seat
No one wants to be called out for a violation let alone be at the center of a content investigation. Be proactive and take the time to put in place a checklist to help you always remain in compliance. Here are our top suggestions to avoid any compliance complications.
- Only work with tube sites where you can control the content uploads
- Track your referring URLs. If traffic is coming from tube sites that you are not controlling your content on, block that traffic,
- Avoid being linked to bad actors and only work with tubes that have robust controls in place to ensure their sites do not contain CSAM and nonconsensual content.
- Do not allow anonymous affiliates into your system.
- If affiliates are found to be marketing your materials inappropriately, ban them or ensure their affiliate links go to a 404 page.
- Use third parties to scan for your content on the internet, renew and send take down requests for any content that you did not authorize and ensure your request follows the format required by the regulation.
- Ensure your promotional material could not be deemed nonconsensual. Make sure to include disclaimers, disclosures, even interviews in tour and promotional materials especially if there is any doubt about consent (for example BDSM, bound, gagged, crying). It’s not a guarantee, but it can only help if you’re ever called to the mat on it.
- Ensure affiliates are reviewed and only use your approved affiliate landing pages.
Compliance is never easy. It’s something you must focus on every day to remain up to date and out of trouble.