OnlyFans suspends plan to ban sexually explicit content after protests by creators

OnlyFans says it has suspended a plan to ban sexually explicit content after protests by its creators and sex worker advocates.

The subscription website said in a statement prepared on Wednesday that the planned ban “was no longer necessary due to assurances from banking partners that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators” and declined to answer further questions.

OnlyFans had said last Thursday that it would ban explicit content from Oct. 1, blaming the policies of banks and payment processors for the change in policy. “The new rules are needed to meet the requirements of these financial institutions and are the only way to help ensure the long-term sustainability of OnlyFans,” the company said in a message to users last week.

OnlyFans has become famous as a place where sex workers can be more securely paid, as well as a space for celebrities to interact with fans.

Last week’s abrupt change annoyed the site’s creators, many of whom threatened to move to another site. Many sex workers joined OnlyFans during the pandemic, when face-to-face locations closed or became more dangerous because of COVID-19. The site has been extremely profitable for some people, allowing them to earn thousands every month. OnlyFans says it has 130 million users and 2 million creators who collectively earned $5 billion (about Rs. 37,101 crores).

Lacy Lennon, who says he earns tens of thousands of dollars a month from OnlyFans charging $100 (about Rs 7,420) a minute for custom videos, remains skeptical about the ban’s reversal. “What’s scary is how safe is it? How do we know it won’t happen again? “

There are other sites where people can pay for pornography, and a crop of new ones have started trying to attract angry OnlyFans creators. Rapper Tyga was promoting his plans for a new platform called myystar in media interviews after OnlyFans announced its ban, saying, “We’re not putting a limit on any content you make.”

“We’ve been in the adult industry for 20 years and we’re tired of seeing sex workers being bullied and exploited by the platforms that make money from them,” said Mattie McCoy, whose Nevada company is also developing a website that could offer an alternative OnlyFans for sex workers called Naughty Popcorn.

Supporters criticized the planned ban on OnlyFans, saying they feared it would lead to more dangerous street sex work. They say that taking a safer virtual space and reducing people’s income makes them more vulnerable to the risk of being trafficked.

“Not having an online outlet will interfere and harm a lot of people. Online is much safer, particularly for trans and non-gender people,” said LaLa Zannell, manager of the ACLU’s trans justice campaign who leads the rights group’s effort to decriminalize sex work.

The online pornography industry is changing amid concerns about sex trafficking and the exploitation of minors. Two laws from 2018, the Prevent Sex Traffickers Act and the Combating Online Sex Trafficking Act, were intended to stop online sex trafficking and caused some spaces to be closed. But many sex workers say these changes have also made their jobs more dangerous.

Elected officials also raised concerns about OnlyFans. A bipartisan group of more than 100 members of Congress asked the Justice Department to investigate OnlyFans in early August, saying the site was a “huge market” for sex videos with children. The letter cited as a source the anti-pornography group National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which has its origins in the religious group Morality in Media, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Sex workers and their supporters say conservative and religious groups are trying to erase sex from the Internet under the guise of fighting sex trafficking and child pornography.

“The only reason they look for porn sites is because they are ideologically opposed to sexual content,” said Cathy Reisenwitz, a writer and creator of OnlyFans who earns between $1,600 (about Rs. 1.18 lakhs) and $US 3,500 (about Rs. 2.59 lakhs) per month on the website. “Trafficking and pornography are totally different.”

OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely blamed banks such as Bank of New York Mellon for the planned ban in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, saying they are refusing the site’s deals.

Adult content companies need to navigate the higher rates and requirements of financial companies beyond what most retailers find; others won’t touch it. Both Mastercard and Visa last year began blocking customers from using credit cards on Pornhub after accusations the site had videos of rape and sex with minors. American Express cards, on the other hand, cannot be used in online pornography. Stripe does not process adult content.

“I want to be optimistic, but I’m very skeptical,” said Phoenix Calida, a creator of OnlyFans who works with the nonprofit advocacy group Sex Workers Outreach Project USA. “It appears that the OF has changed without consulting the sex workers, and I haven’t seen anything to indicate that they understand why this is a problem.”

Calida hopes the reversal will continue, but added “I’m concerned the company still doesn’t seem to think it needs to consult with sex workers before policy changes, rather than respond to criticism later.”

The anti-pornography group, NCOSE, said it “remains firm in holding OnlyFans accountable for allowing abuse and exploitation” and called its age verification process “useless in practice”.

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