Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

A California judge is allowing a lawsuit against Visa to proceed, saying the company plausibly knew that porn site operator MindGeek was making money by selling sexual videos of children. The ruling was issued last week by Judge Cormac Carney in Serena Fleites v. MindGeek et al. Visa monetized MindGeek child porn because it continued to offer payment processing services to the major tube site Pornhub despite knowing the site had failed to moderate videos of children.

The lawsuit claims that MindGeek, Visa, and others violated a number of laws. A young teenager was featured in a sexually explicit video that was put on PornHub. Despite being notified that the video was illegal, PornHub did not take it down for weeks. The New York Times reported that PornHub had allowed illegal videos despite knowing it was hosting child sexual abuse material.

“Visa lent to MindGeek a much-needed tool ... with the alleged knowledge that there was a wealth of monetized child porn”

"Visa lent to MindGeek a much needed tool, its payment network, with the alleged knowledge that there was a wealth of monetized child porn on MindGeek's websites." The ruling suggests that Visa could have pressured MindGeek to moderate its content more carefully after The New York Times published a story on PornHub. The order says thatVisa is not being asked to police the billions of individual transactions it processes each year. It is being asked to stop giving the tool that a criminal entity uses to commit their crimes.

The ruling tries to distinguish Visa from other companies that work with PornHub and MindGeek. It says that if you let Pornhub links appear in search results, you wouldn't necessarily be held liable. The tool used by MindGeek to benefit from child porn was provided by Visa. It wouldn't have provided a tool through which the crime is completed, unlike Visa, even if it knew that its search engine was being used to drive traffic to a website teeming with child porn.

Visa said in a statement that it would not tolerate the use of its network for illegal activity, but that it still believed that it was an improper defendant in the case. The case hasn't yet been argued on its merits, only on the theory that Visa could be held responsible if the allegations are true.