Friday, September 17, 2021

After the uproar, OnlyFans lifts ban on pornographic content

by Tali Arbel and Barbara Ortute | The Associated Press

OnlyFans says it has suspended plans to ban sexually explicit content after outcry from its creators and advocates for sex workers.

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

OnlyFans said last Thursday that it would ban explicit content from October 1, blaming the policies of banks and payment processors for the change in policy. “The new rules are necessary for these financial institutions to comply with and are the only way to help ensure the long-term stability of fans,” the company said in a message to users last week.
OnlyFans has become famous as a place where sex workers can be paid securely as well as a place for celebrities to interact with fans.

The sudden change last week infuriated the site’s creators, many of whom threatened to move to another website. A lot of sex workers joined OnlyFan during the pandemic, when in-person venues closed or became more dangerous because of COVID-19. This site has been highly lucrative for some people, allowing them to earn thousands every month. OnlyFans says it has 130 million users and 2 million creators who have collectively earned $5 billion.

Lacey Lennon, who says she makes tens of thousands of dollars a month from charging Onlyfans $100 per minute for custom videos, remains skeptical of reversing the ban. “What’s scary what’s the security on this? How do we know it won’t happen again?”

There are other sites where people can pay for porn, and a crop of new ones just started trying to woo the troubled creators of the fandom. Rapper Tyga was promoting his plans for a new platform called MyStar in media interviews when Only Fans announced his ban, saying, “We’re not going to limit any content you can do.”

“We’ve been in the adult industry for 20 years and we’re tired of seeing sex workers being bullied and exploited by platforms that make money from them,” said Matty McCoy. Offer an alternative to sex workers only fans, called Naughty Popcorn.

Advocates criticized OnlyFans’ planned ban, saying they were concerned it would push people into more dangerous street-based sex work. Taking away a secure virtual space and cutting off people’s income makes them more vulnerable to the risk of trafficking, they say.

“Not having an online outlet will hinder and harm a lot of people. Online is safer, especially for trans and gender non-conforming people,” said Lala Zanel, trans justice campaign manager for the ACLU, who leads the rights group’s effort to reduce sex work.

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The online porn industry is changing amid concerns about sex trafficking and the exploitation of minors. Two 2018 laws, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the Online Sex Trafficking Act, were meant to stop online sex trafficking, and prompted the closure of some locations. But many sex workers say that these changes have made their work even more dangerous.

Elected officials had also raised concerns about OnlyFans. A bipartisan group of more than 100 members of Congress asked the Justice Department to investigate fans-only earlier in August, saying the site was a “major marketplace” for sexual videos with children. The letter cited the anti-porn group National Center on Sexual Exploitation, which originated in the faith-based group Morality in the Media, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

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Sex workers and their advocates say conservative and religious groups are trying to eradicate sex from the Internet under the guise of combating sex trafficking and child pornography.

“The only reason they go behind porn sites is because they are ideologically opposed to sexual content,” said Cathy Reisenwitz, a writer and OnlyFans creator. “Trafficking and porn are completely different.”

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

Adult-content companies have to navigate higher fees and requirements than financial companies that most retailers face; Others will not touch it. MasterCard and Visa both began barring customers from using credit cards on Pornhub last year after allegations that the site had been raped and underage sex. Meanwhile, the American Express card cannot be used on online pornography. Stripe will not process adult content.

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

Calida expects the reversal to continue, but added, “I’m concerned that the company still doesn’t think it needs to consult sex workers before a policy change, instead responding to criticism. ”

The anti-porn group, NCOSE, said it is “steadfast in holding OnlyFans accountable for enabling abuse and exploitation” and called its age verification process “useless in practice”.

Associated Press writer Ken Sweet contributed to this story.

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After the uproar, OnlyFans lifts ban on pornographic content
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