Update: Tim Stokely, OnlyFan’s founder and CEO, clarified that the platform was going to bans sexual content because of their banking partners (and not MasterCard or VISA).
That said, MasterCard and VISA have “recently clamped down on the use of their cards to pay for sexual content… follow[ing] pressure from organizations that broadly oppose sex work and pornography.”
OnlyFans has built a successful platform on the back of one thing: porn. Sex workers of all stripes have found ways to make a living. It’s been “celebrated as an ethical business model that gives workers financial autonomy and safety” by some, a good side hustle for others, and a disappointment by yet more.
But, no longer:
Video sharing site OnlyFans, best known for its creators’ adult videos and photos, will prohibit sexually explicit content starting October 1st. First reported by Bloomberg, the company says it is making the changes because of pressure from its banking and payment provider partners, though a BBC investigation found that the company had been lenient on creators who had posted illegal content.
The BBC report is worth checking over but, in brief:
- Accounts are moderated differently depending on how popular (and lucrative) they are
- Moderators are told to give accounts multiple warnings for illegal content before they’re banned
- OnlyFans are “failing to prevent under-18s from selling and appearing in explicit videos”
- Mods have found illegal content including “bestiality involving dogs and the use of spy cams, guns, knives and drugs”
The article has more info and worth a read. OnlyFans seems to have real, undeniable structural issues.
Here’s the thing: every social media platform does. Facebook has a massive child porn problem, for example, and countless moderation issues. And yet payment outfits aren’t backing out of their business.
It speaks to the disproportionate power the likes of Visa and MasterCard have have over content (when they choose to exercise it, which, thankfully is rare).
Here’s Jim Waterson for The Guardian:
Payment processing companies increasingly control what material pornography sites are able to host. Last December, Visa and Mastercard briefly banned payments to websites owned by online pornography giant MindGeek, following reports it was hosting “revenge porn” uploaded without the consent of those involved. The financial businesses only backtracked when MindGeek deleted tens of millions of unverified videos from its sites such as PornHub.
“Payment processors as moral arbiters” isn’t quite a future I expected (and it may not get the attention it deserves – most articles refer to “pressure” from payment outfits rather than, say, censorship).
I’m not here to mount a defence against things like revenge porn and, all told, I think PornHub deleting unverified videos was a good thing. And, based on the BBC’s reporting, OnlyFans needs to improve their moderation practices a great deal.
But, the reality is, banks and finance groups are wiping out a platform that helped sex workers ply their trade in a relatively safe environment. This will push many of them into more fraught, more dangerous positions.
Meanwhile, the organisations that make their living drowning people in debt are acting as moral bell-weathers and censors. What a world.
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