On August 25, 2021, the content subscription service, OnlyFans, announced it would suspend its proposed policy change to ban sexually explicit material. The announcement comes just days after the subscription service stated that creators would be prohibited from posting sexually explicit content beginning October 1, 2021.
Founded in 2016, OnlyFans allows for creators to charge fans for exclusive pictures, videos, and other content on their site. The subscription services’ popularity skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and has now attracted more than 130 million users. OnlyFans’ content creators range from photographers to musicians, but the service has become best known for its access to sexually explicit content.
The proposed ban, announced on August 19, 2021, would have prohibited the posting of sexually explicit conduct on the platform. However, the ban would have still allowed users to post nudity, as long as it complied with the OnlyFans Acceptable Use Policy. The current OnlyFans Acceptable Use Policy prohibits violence, rape and lack of consent, as well as “escort services, sex trafficking, and prostitution.” The subscription service stated that the ban was necessary due to pressure from banking partners and payout providers.
OnlyFans’ proposed policy change sparked outrage among the self-identified sex workers who use the platform for posting sexually explicit content. However, days after OnlyFans announced the proposed ban, the platform revealed that it will no longer implement the upcoming policy change to prohibit sexually explicit conduct. Specifically, OnlyFans stated, “We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change.”
This is not the first time that payment providers have pressured subscription services to be more vigilant of the sexually explicit content posted on their site. In December of 2020, Mastercard and Visa blocked card users from making purchases on the PornHub website due to reports of rape and child abuse videos posted on the platform. Similarly, Mastercard has announced a revised standard for adult content merchants, requiring effective controls in place to monitor, block, and take down all illegal content on their sites.
Although OnlyFans has been praised as a safer way to sell sex online, the reality is that OnlyFans facilitates sex trafficking and child sexual abuse material and preys on those with financial insecurities. Similar to the recent issues involving Pornhub, OnlyFans does not have proper measures in place to verify the age or consent of those featured in the sexually explicit content posted on their site. Without these protections, it is inevitable that the platform will contain sexually explicit content involving children and sex trafficking victims. Additionally, many of the users who post sexually explicit content on OnlyFans are already struggling to make ends meet and still do not make enough to survive by posting sexual content on the platform. As a result, OnlyFans profits by exploiting the financial insecurities of these users.
The CSE Institute is disheartened by OnlyFans’ decision to suspend its proposed policy change prohibiting sexually explicit material on its platform. It is critical that subscription services like OnlyFans take appropriate measures to prevent sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse material from being posted on their platforms. No company should ever profit from sexual exploitation or abuse, especially of children.