While many of us were winding down summer vacations in August, Visa quietly released its updated guidelines that address user uploaded content. Processors like us just received the update in October. The good news is the regulations are very similar to Mastercard regulation, AN 5196 (Revised Standards for New Specialty Merchant Registration Requirements for Adult Content Merchants), that went into effect back in October 2021. If you’re compliant with this Mastercard regulation, you should be in good shape to also comply with the Visa changes. As we head into the last month of the year, we wanted to further explain what these guidelines mean, what policies you should have in place, and how it impacts merchants in our industry.
Always Collect Consent
The new Visa regulation (Visa Rule ID 0003356) is part of the Global Brand Protection Program Guide for Acquirers. It focuses on merchants who allow third-party users to upload or generate content. This includes real-time or live-streaming content produced and shared on social media sites, tube sites, cam sites, adult dating sites and voyeur programs. When it comes to user uploaded content, the new Visa regulation states there must be consent in writing and it needs include several things. First, the merchant must enter into a written agreement with the content provider and the agreement must include that the content does not have any activity that is illegal. If it does, it will be in violation of Visa’s rules. Content providers are required to maintain records from all persons depicted in the content and confirm that there was consent given to be depicted. Proof is also needed that consent was given to allow public distribution of the content including uploading it to the merchant’s website. Consent is also needed to allow downloading capabilities if they are available. Merchants must only allow content uploads from verified content providers. This includes the review and validation of government issued identification. Visa recommends the use of a third-party provider that specializes in the validation of government identification. All content must be reviewed prior to publication to ensure that it complies with all applicable laws and Visa rules. Lastly if the content is live streamed, the merchant must have controls in place to manage the content. This includes monitoring the content and removing any content that does not comply with applicable laws and Visa rules. If there is one takeaway here, always get and document written consent!
What and How You Market Matters
The new Visa regulations do impact all adult merchants when it comes to marketing. It requires that merchants do not market the content of its website or allow content search terms to give the impression that it contains child exploitation materials or the depiction of non-consensual activities. Merchants must support a compliant process that allows for reporting potentially illegal or content that violates Visa rules. If there is an issue, or any other illegal or brand damaging material, merchants must immediately remove the material and take the time to review and resolve all complaints within seven days. And they can’t just remove the material without talking to the person who uploaded the content or appeared in it first. Anyone depicted in a video or content needs to have the ability to appeal any decision regarding the removal of the content based on lack of consent. If consent cannot be proven, the content must be taken down immediately. If there is a disagreement over consent, then at the expense of the merchant the disagreement needs to be resolved by a neutral third party. Merchants must stay diligent. Monthly reports are required. These reports should include a list of flagged potentially illegal or other questionable content in violation of Visa rules as well as what relevant actions were taken are required. Merchants must also have policies in place prohibiting the use of its website to promote human trafficking, sex trafficking or abuse. We highly recommend that merchants participate in an anti-trafficking organization to help with these issues.
Develop Your Own Policies
Not everything is spelled out in the new Visa regulations so it’s important that each merchant develops its own set of content compliance policies when it comes to reporting, resolving and appealing questionable content. Many of our acquirers are requesting policies as part of their onboarding process. These procedures need to be detailed and clearly explain how the processes are carried out. It’s important to have the right mindset when writing these. Develop them like you were creating a training document for new hires who will be carrying out the ID verification and content review. Make sure to build a solid content management policies and procedures that include, but are not limited to, age and identity verification, content review, uploading and downloading content, real time platform monitoring, marketing, monitoring, and identifying trafficking or abuse or anything else that is illegal or violating standards. Create a sample copy of a written agreement for a third party or content provider. Have a tough chargeback or fraud mitigation policy in place along with a clear return and refund policy.
These content and compliance regulations are not anything new but if you carefully follow them you will keep your business running smoothly. Remember, for any type of user uploaded or live stream merchants, acquirers are always asking for supporting policies and documented procedures. These are in addition to the policies they have in place helping to maintain compliance with Mastercard and Visa rules. You’re likely already following all these content guidelines but going that extra step will lessen the chances you’re flagged and be asked to explain questionable actions by others.