Last week, subscription-based web giant OnlyFans caused a major outcry after announcing a plan to ban pornographic content on its platform after October 1st. This announcement was immediately met with scorn from popular NSFW content creators, who have used the site since its inception to promote their sexual content. Suddenly, thousands of online sex workers were scrambling for an explanation from a company that had benefited so much from their explicit content. As the announcement played out, content creators began to feel gaslit by the social media leviathan.
Founded in 2016, the London based company exploded in popularity during the pandemic, claiming to have 130 million users and 2 million content creators. While OnlyFans also hosts more mainstream performers and celebrities such as Cardi B, and Bella Thorne, many online sex workers have used the site as a safe means of producing pornographic content for their fanbases. The plans for a ban on NSFW content would displace a large percentage of their creators, many of whom rely on OnlyFans to make ends meet.
The story about OnlyFans’ move away from pornography broke in the media before the company could release an official statement. The day before it formally addressed the ban, many well known OnlyFans creators shared direct messaging from OnlyFans Support that seemed to contradict the news story. In these messages, the support team made claims that they had no plans of blocking sexual content and users would still be able to post nudity as long as it adhered to the platform's “Acceptable Use Policy”. Creators were panicking, but the initial responses from the company seemed to point out that the news of the ban was untrue.
Lulled into a false sense of security, most creators were completely shocked by the subsequent statement sent out in an email from OnlyFans, officially confirming that there would be a ban on sexual content as of October 1st. Creators were also told they had until December 1st to remove all previously uploaded content that no longer adhered to the new Acceptable Use policy. In its statement to creators, OnlyFans vaguely explained, “In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines.”
In the wake of this statement, many creators vocalized their disgust with the company, and expressed their limited options in migrating to a new platform. Many of them directly addressed the company, asking why they were sending mixed messages to users. In the midst of the chaos, the OnlyFans official Twitter account tweeted “Dear Sex Workers, The OnlyFans community would not be what it is today without you. The policy change was necessary to secure banking and payment services to support you. We are working around the clock to come up with solutions. #SexWorkIsWork.”
Many users pointed out that this was the first time OnlyFans openly acknowledged its relationship with sex workers in the entire history of its operation. Users demanded transparency, and to be provided with an explanation of why the company was abandoning its creators.
In an interview for Financial Times, OnlyFans founder Tim Stokely stated that the company was essentially forced to impose the ban to comply with the wants of major banks and payment processors. “The change in policy, we had no choice — the short answer is banks,” Stokley stated, citing unfair treatment from banks such as Bank of New York Mellon, which he says “flagged and rejected” payment transfers to creators.
Some people have speculated that the change was due to the company trying to appeal to external investors. According to one Bloomberg report, OnlyFans is seeking funding valued at over $1 billion. There were also rumors milling about that the change was due to pressure from MasterCard, similar to a similar situation with PornHub. Stokely directly addressed the MasterCard rumor, stating that OnlyFans was in compliance with the credit card company, and again redirected the blame to banks. Despite his earnest attempts to appeal to the sex worker community of OnlyFans, many creators expressed a desire to abandon the platform immediately, and pressured the company to release its 20 percent hold on their earnings. The damage was done and OnlyFans’ economic future seemed to hang in the balance.
In a surprise move, a week after announcing the impending ban, Only Fans has backtracked from their original statement, reversing the decision to ban pornography. On August 25th the company tweeted:
“We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change.”
“OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators,” the firm added. “An official communication to creators will be emailed shortly.”
The decision has been met by trepidation and continued scorn from content creators. After a week of being led to believe their content was safe, just to have the company announce the opposite, many creators say they have no plans on continuing to use OnlyFans. Replies to the platform’s latest statement likened the interaction between the platform and its creators to an abusive relationship, one in which online sex workers are tired of remaining.
Featured photo: Model and Top 0 percent OnlyFans creator Candice Kloss, a MENSA member, in one of her first photos posted to the site. (C) Kmfoster222, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.