OnlyFans porn ban/reverse ban is a mystery

OnlyFans porn ban/reverse ban is a mystery

Well, that was fast. After all, sexually explicit content is allowed on OnlyFans. But we don’t know much about why the content subscription service made the abrupt policy change — nor why it reversed its decision in just a few days.

Here’s what we do know: Less than a week after announcing it would cut most of the pornographic content the service has become known for on Oct. over $1 billion), OnlyFans withdrew.

When OnlyFans first announced the ban on August 19, OnlyFans said it was an effort “to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.” CEO Tim Stokely later told the Financial Times That was the fault of banks, saying they made it difficult to impossible for OnlyFans to transfer money to creators. He also said they were closing sex workers’ bank accounts.

But on August 25 following a lot by backlash (as well as the threat of losing much of its revenue), onlyfans said: it “insured guarantees necessary to support our diverse creator community” and that it suspended the ban on sexually explicit content. But OnlyFans declined to tell Recode more than that, including what it did or had done to get those guarantees from its banking partners — or who those banking partners even are.

One of the banks Stokely cited as particularly difficult, BNY Mellon, would not comment on Recode had it reached some sort of agreement with OnlyFans. A spokesperson for JPMorgan, who Stokely told the Financial Times was “particularly aggressive” about cutting accounts from sex workers or companies that support them, told Recode the company had no policy banning adult entertainers.

Meanwhile, media coverage of the ban has overshadowed one of the possible reasons OnlyFans might have decided to implement it: a lengthy BBC investigation, published shortly after OnlyFans initially announced it would ban most porn. The BBC reported that OnlyFans were not doing enough to ensure that the creators are of legal age or that all content posted to the platform is legal. It also reported that the company is slow to ban creators found to be violating its policy. The report was based on OnlyFans moderator accounts and leaked internal documents that according to the BBC show banned or illegal content on the platform and that OnlyFans advised its moderators to give creators posting illegal content three warnings before banning them.

OnlyFans denied most of the BBC’s allegations and would not tell Recode whether the BBC report influenced its initial decision to ban pornography. It pointed Recode to his Terms of Service that details Verification process for creators, including submitting photos of two forms of ID and a photo of the creator holding those IDs, and it said it has a “zero tolerance policy” for banned content. OnlyFans also said it uses certain technologies to identify child sexual abuse material (CSAM), including: Microsoft’s PhotoDNA. OnlyFans also shared his transparency report, which includes select details about CSAM that can be found on its platform (15 OnlyFans accounts were deactivated for possible CSAM in July 2021, for example).

But the BBC report (as well as a 2020 BBC documentary about the company) indicates that despite that existing policy, users are still uploading illegal content. OnlyFans wouldn’t tell Recode how many people it employs or contracts to moderate content. Nor would it say whether it would hire more from them or alter its policies in any way to better assure those skittish banking partners that everything on the site is legal.

A report like the one from the BBC could have ended disastrously for a company like OnlyFans. Just look at Pornhub – basically YouTube for porn – that after one New York Times Report last December, the site said the site wasn’t doing enough to prevent sexually explicit content featuring children or non-consenting adults. Pornhub tried undo some of that damage by removing all content from unverified accounts and promising to hire more moderators, but the credit card companies have yet to reinstate their services on the site. Subscribers to Pornhub’s premium service have to transfer the funds from their bank or use cryptocurrency.

There was also an approaching deadline from Mastercard that could have played into OnlyFans’ abrupt policy change (the first): Mastercard had announced back in april that it would impose new requirements on adult content merchants on October 15. These requirements include age and identity verification, pre-publication content review, and handling reports of illegal or non-consensual content within seven business days. Given that OnlyFans reportedly has 2 million creators, meeting those requirements would be a really tough job – especially previewing all the content before publishing.

The National Center for Sexual Exploitation linked Mastercard’s change to OnlyFans’ decision in an early statement about the ban, though OnlyFans itself did not initially mention Mastercard and later said OnlyFans was “fully compliant” with Mastercard’s new rules.

Any pressure from Mastercard would have been indirect, Mastercard said.

“We have not had any discussions with OnlyFans,” a company spokesperson told Recode. “Actually, we don’t have a direct relationship with them. We didn’t hear about the decision until Thursday through the media.”

Mastercard has not commented on the upcoming pre-publishing content rating policy and how that might affect OnlyFans, which: offers a live streaming service.

So basically the only source we have about the complaints or assurances from these banking partners seems to be OnlyFans themselves, and OnlyFans doesn’t say much else. And while trying to please certain parties (whoever they are), the company managed to drive pretty much everyone else crazy.

Anti-sex labor organizations that welcomed last week’s ban are now back to battle the company; the National Center on Sexual Exploitation told Recode it “remains steadfast in holding OnlyFans accountable for enabling abuse and exploitation.”

Sex workers can’t trust OnlyFans won’t do something like that again (the company just “suspended” the ban, which isn’t the same as canceling it), and they now know OnlyFans was willing to throw them out — the people the company was largely built on – aside from when banks would have asked for it. Some of these people have already moved their services to other platforms in the wake of the content ban; they can continue that migration even if the ban has been lifted. Fansly, which operates a platform very similar to OnlyFans and has seemingly embraced content creators for sex workers, say it has had a “huge influx” of creator applications since the ban was announced.

And the millions of people who put the “fans” in OnlyFans wonder if the content on the site has been properly vetted — and how much longer they can watch it.

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