Why is OnlyFans banning sexually explicit content from its platform?

OnlyFans pulled in gross revenue of $2.2B in 2020, most of it sex-related. Now payment processors are pressuring it to clean up the platform.

Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When it comes to the “creator economy,” one of the biggest winners during the pandemic has been OnlyFans.

Users of its platform sold $2.2B worth of premium content to fans in 2020 (i.e., subscriptions, tips, chats), with OnlyFans notching net sales of $375m, per Axios.

There’s 1 huge catch: the majority of its content is sex-related.

A huge business pivot

Last Thursday, OnlyFans shocked the tech world by announcing that it would ban certain sex content starting in October.

Observers joked it was like McDonald’s saying it would stop selling burgers or Starbucks saying it would stop selling coffee.

Why the move? Per CNN, OnlyFans is likely responding to a policy shift from credit card companies that might restrict payments related to sex content. Relatedly, Axios notes that OnlyFans was having problems raising money from investors wary of its R-rated reputation.

There was a potentially much bigger problem

An investigative report from the BBC found that OnlyFans’ content moderation system often misses illegal content (e.g., escort services).

The episode may sound broadly familiar: When Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, was accused of allowing banned content, it ultimately deleted 80% of its videos and enforced a verification system.

What’s next?

OnlyFans is home to 130m fans and 2m creators, many of whom made a living on the platform as the pandemic swept away more traditional jobs.

While the startup says it will still allow certain sex content, it has yet to release clear guidelines.

The crypto community — with key tenets of decentralization and censorship resistance — wants to fill the void: 1 service called OnlyCoins is supporting sex workers with crypto subscriptions.

OnlyTime will tell if this will work.

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