OnlyPrudes: OnlyFans, The Platform For Sexually Explicit Content, Says No More Sexually Explicit Content (Except For Nudes)

from the none-of-this-makes-sense dept

To some extent, it was only a matter of time until this issue came up. OnlyFans has grown massively over the last year (demonstrating, yet again, that the idea that the internet ecosystem is “settled” and that Facebook/Google control all is not necessarily true). However, as most people know, OnlyFans’ success is built on basically creating a paywall for adult content from fans willing to subscribe to certain individuals in order to gain access to paid-only pictures and videos. It has had a tremendous impact especially for sex workers who had their careers shattered by FOSTA a few years ago, which forced a bunch of platforms sex workers relied on to shut down.

But, because it involves sex and adult content, sooner or later people were going to complain. And, complain they did. On Thursday OnlyFans announced that it was banning “sexually explicit” content, though it said it’s still allowing nudity.

Effective October 1, 2021, OnlyFans will prohibit the posting of any content containing sexually explicit conduct. 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. Creators will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity as long as it is consistent with our Acceptable Use Policy.

What does that even mean? It’s extremely unclear. The “Acceptable Use Policy” doesn’t seem to define any difference between sexually explicit and nude content. Instead, it focuses on having the rights to the content you’re posting and not posting illegal content. I can’t wait for the content moderation case study exploring how OnlyFans distinguishes merely “nude” with “sexually explicit.” That’ll be a fun one.

Of course, there’s a lot likely happening behind the scenes here. Just two days earlier OnlyFans announced a separate app of non-adult content, while simultaneously noting that it was having difficulty finding investors, despite its overwhelming success.

It wouldn’t be a surprise for it to eventually come out that part of the issue is… FOSTA. The same law that created such a mess for sex workers since it was passed was likely always a potential risk for OnlyFans. The company is saying that many of its partners — especially in the financial world — were getting cold feet. According to Bloomberg, who broke the news:

The changes are needed because of mounting pressure from banking partners and payment providers, according to the company.

And, this shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Remember, payment and banking partners have long been a target for government officials when they want to crack down on things they don’t like — especially sex related things.

Sex workers are already speaking out about this. Cathy Reisenwitz, from Sex and the State put out a statement:

??OnlyFans was the most empowering way for adult creators to connect with our audience. I?ve benefited tremendously from OF personally. But at the end of the day I?ll be fine. I can?t say that about sex workers who depended on OF. Many of them are going to have to turn to in-person sex work, made all the more dangerous by SESTA/FOSTA, to make ends meet. I?m angry our deeply sex-negative, whorephobic society allows lying evangelicals and SWERFs to dictate the limits of our freedom of speech and put sex workers? lives and livelihoods in jeopardy for no benefit to anyone. Every problem, from CSAM to trafficking, that banning porn is supposed to solve is actually exacerbated by stigmatizing and criminalizing online porn.

There are many reasons why some of us think we should be moving to a world where the internet has fewer chokepoints where policymakers and moral panic purveyors can put pressure on just a small handful of companies to choke off speech. Yes, obviously, OnlyFans has every right to decide how it wants to manage its own platform, but the key point here is that this doesn’t seem to be OnlyFans doing this because it thinks it’s best for the site, or for its users (either creators or fans). Rather, it’s because of the intermediaries stepping in to tell them what is and what is not allowed.

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Comments on “OnlyPrudes: OnlyFans, The Platform For Sexually Explicit Content, Says No More Sexually Explicit Content (Except For Nudes)”

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66 Comments
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Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Considering what Stephen T. Stone said…

The difference between "Moderation" and "Censorship" is that:
-"Moderation" is "You can’t do that here." Whereas,
-"Censorship" is "You can’t do that anywhere."

Considering that it’s likely FOSTA and SESTA is creating such a chilling effect, I think what OnlyFans is doing is more along the lines of "Censorship". What says Stephen T. Stone?

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bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Considering what Stephen T. Stone said…

You asked about what OnlyFans is doing, not FOSTA, SESTA, or government officials are doing, so my answer would definitely be moderation. For one thing, as noted, “censorship” is “you can’t do that anywhere”, and OnlyFans is only restricting content on its own platform. Assuming (without arguing, conceding, or rejecting) that there are no other sites willing to keep such “sexually explicit” content on their platforms, OnlyFans is still only restricting what can appear on its own platform, not anywhere else. That they may be doing so because someone else is effectively saying “you can’t do that anywhere” doesn’t mean that OnlyFans is saying “you can’t do that anywhere” rather than just “you can’t do that here”.

That said, I believe that it is, at the very least, easily arguable that OnlyFans’s decision here is the result of censorship. It’s just that the censorship isn’t what OnlyFans is doing that’s censorship per se.

Mat (profile) says:

… I think the first biggest hurdle to fixing it so this stops happening (this isn’t the first time this has happened in internet history), is perhaps taking away the ability of payment processors to deny any legal service, even if that means shielding them from liability from a ‘in good faith’ legal service being not so. (As in, hold the end user(s) liable for their own acts, not the middle man, so long as the middle man is just being the middle man)

The alternative, is that MasterCard/Visa, Discover, and American Express basically can dictate what you can and can’t spend money on.

I can tell you I’m not fond of that second option.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

The alternative, is that MasterCard/Visa, Discover, and American Express basically can dictate what you can and can’t spend money on.

Taken to the logical endgame, this would ultimately mean payment processors could essentially control what speech is or isn’t “acceptable” on the web. That’s a far more frightening notion, and it’s not one I see a whole lot of people raising, mostly because of the porn angle.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, this strikes me as a function of a lack of competition. (Something to keep in mind the next time you see a guest article touting the Chicago School notion that lack of competition is fine as long as prices stay low.) There are a couple of different ways to handle that — trust-busting to increase competition would be one; keeping the current limited market but regulating payment processing as a utility that has to be available to everyone would be another.

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

A huge angle I think worth exploring

OF is seeking to limit sexually explicit content to gain INVESTORS.

Why is this meaningful? OF’s amazing income, which is the attraction for investors, is built on this content. Just like Tumblr’s value plummeted from Verizon’s acquisition to Verizon’s sale of OF, from 1 billion to 20 million. Nearly Two full orders of magnitude. The major loss seems to be from Tumblr’s user exodus in the wake of a no-sexual-content policy that also killed off large Trans and Neurodivergent communities supporting each other, including my discussing unique challenges romantic and sexual relationships faced in these communities. A huge reason some communities left is the lack of clarity for what was allowed (text was supposed to be okay, then it wasn’t/.

Its the curated audience problem. OF has a giant audience looking for sexually explicit material. When it cuts off that audience, like a minecraft or fortnite youtuber shifting to a new game, that audience, and the income, goes away.

Any investor looking to invest in OF at a valuation based on the last 2 years growth is a fool, and the attempt to cash out the owner at the expense of those who built the platform’s value deserves to tank the entire endevor.

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Koby (profile) says:

Government Beneficiary

The company is saying that many of its partners — especially in the financial world — were getting cold feet.

I’m reminded of the 2011 "Black Friday" event of online poker, where numerous online poker venues were suddenly shut down by the U.S. government. Investors want assurances that the same won’t happen to them. Recently, more states have legalized casino gambling and marijuana, enticed by the lure of tax dollars. Currently, it is my understanding that most of these OF content creators are not paying taxes on their income. There may be a possible solution if questionably legal sites such as OF begin generating significant revenue for the government. The government may change its tune, as it has done before.

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Government Beneficiary

You are wrong. Betting websites were shut down in 2011 for violating state level gambling as well as money laundering and wire fraud by manipulating transaction data on payouts to appear as something other than income from gambling. While not stated in the case, they likely did not report gambling winnings to the IRS, as required by law.

A corp like OF, looking for investors, is absolutely reporting its income to the IRS and would, like patreon, report 1099-NEC income earned on its platform to the government. I know, for a fact, Only fans requires tax info to pay out more than $600 in a calender year to comply with reporting requirements. You don’t report that thousands of content creators are earning over 50K to investors if you aren’t reporting that income.

It was a huge MRA talking point that cam girls weren’t paying taxes a few years back. This was not based in anything solid. The basis was that at the same time those workers were getting hit by the IRS. But the idea these were people trying to hide income is, generally bunk. It wasn’t a widespread issue and those hit were hit because because the sites (chaturbate, MFC) were reporting income to the IRS and the actual issue was many of these young girls were unaware of the special tax situtaion an independent contractor is in (i.e. you need to pay taxes quarterly, not just at the end of the year). The people "not paying taxes" were, and reporting requirements caught those doing it wrong. Which is why it didn’t make headline news about MFC not reporting income and being indicted.

The content is legal. It isn’t about "not paying taxes". Its about Onlyfans trying to cash out its founder, and finding no one other than a porn mogel wants to invest in a site known for porn thanks to our entire history of law enforcement and anything sex related online.

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nerdrage (profile) says:

money money money

I wondered if the impetus behind this is financial – this company wants to do an IPO someday right? So I checked this investors site:

https://seekingalpha.com/news/3732711-onlyfans-to-prohibit-any-sexually-explicit-conduct

I think this commenter has it right:

"People keep saying it’s all they do. THAT is the problem. They didn’t only want to do p0rn or be known as that kind of website. They started as a normal company. But the porn girls took it over. So yeah they went with it. Sure it made them money. For one thing it’s very money intensive and manpower intensive to keep illegal content off it like underage girls. And it’s a huge legal liability. They actually got caught by I think it was the BBC or something for not removing all the illegal content or being able to keep up with it. They probably don’t want that liability and hassle and bad press. Not to mention legal costs.

They also want to bring in celebrities and bring in a much larger general population and base. And women that don’t want to take off their clothes. Some normal business guy or lady doesn’t want to use it or send clients to the site now because that is ALL it’s known for. Do you understand the problem? They don’t WANT to only be known as an adult site. Nothing wrong with that. And your general advertiser doesn’t want to advertise on there either. There is FAR more money to be made when it becomes a normal website for the average person, big companies, etc."

Another factor is that when this company goes public, its share price will depend partly on institutional investors, which tend to be very conservative. There are massive funds being run for Teachers, Firemen, Policemen etc pensions and they are leery of investing in anything that will create controversy.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

The big problem is that OnlyFans built its value partially (if not near-entirely) through sex workers. OF choosing to kick out those who made the company as valuable as it is now will destroy a lot of that value immediately. When Tumblr formally began its porn ban, its traffic⁠—and thus its value⁠—dropped practically overnight. The same will happen to OF, and nothing besides reversing the ban will prevent this fate.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: money money money

A note about this possibly being about investors is in the tech dirt article:

Of course, there’s a lot likely happening behind the scenes here. Just two days earlier OnlyFans announced a separate app of non-adult content, while simultaneously noting that it was having difficulty finding investors, despite its overwhelming success.

I have included the link to source of the claim, which notes that OF is looking to cash out the founder with the investment money. Its absolutely at least partially financial. Thats not hidden. But Advertising? Pssh. Under the current finances they don’t need an advertising revenue stream. They have their revenue stream.

I know several non-sexual content creators. Subscribe to one. They need to advertise the OF right and set expectations. Something Belle Delphine never understood, choosing instead to hint at explicit content and providing vanilla content.

Nothing you say here is new, but it also relies on the ability to maintain revenue after losing its core audience. Case in point, Tumblr didn’t want to be known as an "adult site". They were a business valued by Verizon at a billion dollars, but after banning sexual content in an ambiguous, its not clear what is still allowed way, Verizon barely managed to get 20 million for what was left. They curated their niche audience, and when they booted that audience off they had nothing left. (And its important they booted off a lot more than porn in booting off sexual material)

Which is why its the dumbest move for OF to boot off that core audience if the move is to get more money.

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Taken from another article elsewhere that i won;t link cause i always end up in moderation when i post a link…

"And although it could be profitable without raising new money, the company has existing investors who want to sell their shares for a profit."

I do not think they know what that word means, because what they have demanded the site do is going to remove any chance of profits.

How is it in 2021 we can still pretend that porn is horrible and no one looks at it when its still a multibillon dollar business?

The for the children angle… well there are these records that identify the person posting the material so one would think it would make it easier to find those sorts of scumbags rather than drive them off onto sketchier camsites.

600K dead, Afghanistan a fuster cluck & making sure people can’t seen other people fscking is the hot topic.
How the hell are humans still alive?

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: [4 - profit!]

what they have demanded the site do is going to remove any chance of profits.

Depends on where you are in the chain:

  1. Ban adult content from popular web site selling rotating air-movement devices
  2. Sell out before the value tanks because kids do not buy fans
  3. [ ??? ]
  4. Profit!

Assuming you are at step 2, it might work. Not if your step 2 is buy before'', but if you are atsell before”, then it might work.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Missing the point

You’re missing the forest for the trees. FOSTA was brought up because sex workers who do these kind of things of their own volition were forced back to the streets with no resource on what clients were verified by the community so they were putting their lives in danger by doing so.

OnlyFans allowed them to make money in a safer way and that built up OF’s profilio and netted them some major money. It’s not a stretch to say they helped prop up OnlyFans but now that the company is looking to get investors of course the first people kicked to the curb are the sex workers who had found a lifeline after being cast to the streets by FOTA.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Don’t like porn? Don’t watch it.

Don’t like sex work? Don’t do it or be involved with it.

Concerned that some sex workers aren’t there by choice? Work to give them other opportunities if they’re just doing it because they don’t have other options, and if they’re really there against their will catch the scumbags exploiting them and then give them other options to get them financially stable.

‘I don’t like porn/sex work therefore it shouldn’t exist’ is never the right call and exposes someone with issues of their own they need to work through.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Now do abortion…

Its always so nice to see the ‘MUH RIGHTS’ crowd’s true colors, they want there to be control but they want to be the ones who decide for everyone.
And of course its never about the morality of the thing, because they keep getting caught fapping to it or paying an underaged teen of either sex to get them off… its about making sure there is an underclass they can keep shoving down & blaming for all of societies ills while not admitting they have one of them loyalty cards and 1 more punch and the next blowjob is free.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Its always so nice to see the ‘MUH RIGHTS’ crowd’s true colors, they want there to be control but they want to be the ones who decide for everyone.
And of course its never about the morality of the thing, because they keep getting caught fapping to it or paying an underaged teen of either sex to get them off… its about making sure there is an underclass they can keep shoving down & blaming for all of societies ills while not admitting they have one of them loyalty cards and 1 more punch and the next blowjob is free.

Now do abortion…

Rep. Tim Murphy. Votes for anti-abortion bill, then wants his mistress to get an abortion. Trump staffer Jason Miller accused of slipping his mistress an abortion pill in a smoothie.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: So much for the 'sanctity of life'...

‘Abortion is murder! … now like I was saying no I won’t wear a mask, social distance or get the vaccine to reduce the spread of a deadly pandemic, I have bodily autonomy and that gives me total control over my body and if someone else dies because of that that’s their problem!’

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: So much for the 'sanctity of life'...

Oh, yes, demonize the position because some of those who claim it don’t follow it. Less work than actually trying to think and separate the two and realize you wouldn’t want the same thing said about you and your beliefs. And much easier than NOT generalizing and painting everyone with the same brush. But just like the people you hate, you want someone to look down on and think you’re better than. Otherwise you’d quit lumping the position in with the person.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So much for the 'sanctity of life'...

Oh I certainly hold nothing but contempt for those that are willing to dismiss bodily autonomy when it comes to abortions but scream ‘my body my choice!‘ when it comes to others telling them to show even the slightest bit of responsibility to safeguard the well-being of those around them by getting a bloody shot and keeping some distance, but other that that… what? What did I generalize and who did I paint with a broad brush other than the hypocrites who fall into the above category?

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 So much for the 'sanctity of life'...

If his description of the people he’s talking about doesn’t describe you, then he’s not talking about you.

He’s clearly referring only those people who are anti-abortion and make this particular anti-masking/antivax argument, and he’s not saying that all anti-abortion people are like this, so you don’t have any reason to be offended unless you are one of those hypocritical a$$holes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

A lot of physical stores sell gift cards that can be used online, without having a credit or debit card. You think the unbanked don’t shop online? The occasional quick trip into a store, e.g. to buy such cards, isn’t particularly dangerous if people are (mostly) distancing and wearing masks. And the idea that surface-touching (cash, cards, doors) is a significant driver of infection was debunked months into the pandemic.

Of course, it’s possible that gift cards are run by the very banks one might wish to avoid; I don’t know the details of that business.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The thing is that I could see a distinction drawn between clearly pornographic content, which involves actual sexual activity being clearly portrayed, and nude content, which just involves not wearing clothing.

The only issue there is defining “sexual activity”. Is intercourse required? Or would masturbation count? And, if intercourse is required, is intercourse solely genital-to-genital? Or do oral and anal count? And what about paizuri? Does mutual masturbation count? And is BDSM “sexual activity”? Does there need to be more than one participant? This does need to be clearly defined, but it is possible to clearly define “sexual activity” in such a way. And, either way, do real people have to be depicted? Or can drawings, comics, and cartoons be a violation?

Of course, I am in no way claiming that OnlyFans is or will be so clear with their new restrictions, or that even my restriction is “good”, but I can say that it could be done in a way that is fairly clear and straightforward.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Exactly!

Well, usually the reason this would be done is so that people who are posting something that clearly isn’t sexual don’t have to go through the detailed list of things that are prohibited, and those who might be closer to or cross this particular line can then go to the specifically enumerated list for “prohibited sexual activities” to see if they cross the line or not.

Basically, there’d be primary list of things that violate the rules, like harassment, copyright or trademark infringement, spam, child pornography, animal cruelty, doxxing, real-world graphic violence, sexual activity, revenge porn, bigotry, violations of FCC guidelines, etc. Then for each of the listed items, there’s be a separate subsection the spells each of them out, possibly including an enumerated list or by a detailed definition.

(Spam, harassment, and bigotry would be more touchy-feely and would likely involve a clear definition (and bigotry would likely include a list of protected categories, namely race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion); copyright or trademark infringement would be fairly self-explanatory; FCC guidelines would likely include a list of things regulated by the FCC as well as where to go for more information; child porn would basically explain the minimum ages for fictional and real-world subjects when displayed nude or in a sexual activity and/or point to the relevant statutes; sexual activity would likely use an enumerated list of prohibited activities and expressly allow for nudes not performing any of the listed actions and not violating any of the other rules, though there might be one catch-all category for real-world rape, and there might be separate lists for real-world content and for cartoon depictions of fictional characters.)

But yeah, detailed lists are probably one of the best ways to handle something like this. There is one problem though: people can be very creative, especially when it comes to sexual activity. Never underestimate the perversity and creativity of people on the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m very excited for when Twitter inevitably bans porn as it pushes forward with its premium paid service Twitter Blue, tons of artists and others get their accounts banned, and then in 2 years BlueSky finally happens and you can have porn on the open protocol, but all those users who had years of art and social connections on Twitter don’t get their accounts back and would have to start from absolute scratch. All the while, sites like Techdirt praise Twitter and BlueSky as the saviors of the Internet.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Didn't we a;ready learn about this?

I believe the idea is that, by prohibiting something or making it prohibitively difficult to do/acquire legally and safely, you wind up leaving it to gangs and black markets that de facto unregulated, which doesn’t actually solve the problem you’re trying to solve and creates new problems.

In the Prohibition, it was alcohol. In this case, I believe that Great_Scott is referring to prostitution (which is mentioned in the article), though he may be referring to pornographic content which—while not actually illegal—is being de facto restricted in many ways that get closer to “prohibitively difficult”, at least online. But yeah, probably prostitution.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…This is probably part of the point you’re trying to make, and I’m not exactly an expert on sharia law, but while having a (fairly) free media is probably consistent with sharia law, how much participation with society are women allowed under sharia law?

And actually, on that subject, why is sharia law so restrictive of women? As I recall, according to Islamic history, Mohammad’s (first) wife was a wealthy businesswoman who proposed to him at some point, which was how they got married. That is, she was the one bringing in income to the family. So why are so many fundamentalist Muslims so opposed to women having this level of independence? And why do men have so much power over the marriage?

JBDragon (profile) says:

Really?

We all know what this site is mostly used for and how it has grown because of that. Who cares if someone gets offended by the content. No one is forcing them to watch any of it. By killing this adult content, they are basically killing their site to become worthless. What are they now going to offer that you just can’t get at a dozen other places?

I have never been to this site. It doesn’t affect me. I could care less one way or another. I think it’s dumb for the company to cave in as it did. If I was a stock holder, I’d be MAD as my stock would be worth less and dropping fast. I haven’t looked at this stock market value. That’s just my guess.

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