OnlyFans is known primarily as a place where sex workers can earn money for their services and performances, but on Thursday the company abruptly announced that it would ban the very content the platform became popular providing.
The platform has been in the news over the last year as its user base has grown away from the thing that originally made it the Patreon of sex work, more or less. While that ubiquity has made the term “OnlyFans” synonymous with direct-to-subscriber adult content. But in recent years it’s shied away from that label. Actress Bella Thorne, for example, made a big splash on OnlyFans with content in 2020, sparking a flood of non sex-workers (mainly celebrities) using the platform to further monetize their content.
But many feared that movement could drive those already using it — in many cases as their primary form of income — off the platform. Sex workers were outraged and now, less than a year later, their worst fears seem to have been realized. OnlyFans currently bills itself as a “subscription social platform revolutionizing creator and fan relationships” and touts many of those non-adult creators on its social media, but missing from it was an announcement that it would be banning sexually explicit videos on the platform According to Bloomberg, the platform’s terms of service will change in the next month to limit the kind of sexual material those using the platform can publish.
Starting in October, the company will prohibit creators from posting material with sexually explicit conduct on its website, which many sex workers use to sell fans explicit content. They’ll still be allowed to put up nude photos and videos, provided they’re consistent with OnlyFans’ policy, the company said Thursday.
The popularity of the social-media service exploded during the pandemic as sex workers, musicians and online influencers used it to charge fans for exclusive access to photos, videos and other material. OnlyFans has attracted more than 130 million users.
The changes, multiple reports have cited, come as a result of pressure from banks as OnlyFans tries to grow as a more diverse platform. An Axios report from earlier in the week notes the “porn problem” that OnlyFans has as a company trying to adhere to the startup company concept of exponential growth.
In short, OnlyFans has a porn problem, even though it never once mentions porn in its pitch-deck (something that multiple investors called “disingenuous.”).
– Some VC funds are prohibited from investing in adult content, per limited partnership agreements.
– Several investors are concerned about minors creating subscription accounts, although the company says it has controls in place to prevent that.
– Some investors say they could get past the porn, but worry that the company’s reputation would prevent it from attracting brand partners (despite this week announcing a “safe for work” product that features its growing number of clothed creators).
In other words, for the company to grow it needs to leave behind the many users who have made that growth possible in the first place. Which, given the outrage that Thorne’s appearance and the like caused, only begat further outrage on Thursday.
Not only is this complete bullshit for the sex workers who make a living there, but… who are they fooling? How far removed can they be from their actual business to think they're going to make comparable profits being a worse Patreon? Do they not know about Tumblr? https://t.co/JU7nd3ywVE
— Cliff 🦖 Jerrison (@pervocracy) August 19, 2021
It’s like if Patreon said no more podcasts
— gianmarco (@GianmarcoSoresi) August 19, 2021
Without sex workers, OnlyFans is just Patreon. Why even bother
— Amy (@inspiredzone) August 19, 2021
RIP OnlyFans. It was a good run, but maybe MySpace can come back and rebrand a bit to take OnlyFans market
— Charlie (@MoistCr1TiKaL) August 19, 2021
Only fans is banning sex workers! They need to have respect for all their content creators!
— JEDWARD (@planetjedward) August 19, 2021
I’m no business man but OnlyFans banning sexually explicit content seems unwise, like Grindr banning gay men
— sarah schauer 🦂 (@sarahschauer) August 19, 2021
When tech platforms like OnlyFans see themselves as arbiters of acceptable cyber speech and activity, they stigmatize sex work, making workers less safe.https://t.co/InP2vIX7Rx
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 19, 2021
Phrases like “ManyVids” and “Patreon” trended on Twitter in the wake of the announcement, as people commented on where sex workers could potentially turn to continue their work or mentioned other monetization platforms that have made similar decisions over the years. And while OnlyFans tried to hedge the news by noting the changes are minimal, it’s clear people continue to feel slighted by the path the company is taking, for better or worse.