OnlyFans Reversed its Decision to Ban Sexual Content



OnlyFans, the subscriber based social network platform, sparked outrage last week when it announced it would ban “sexually explicit” content on Oct. 1. The platform, where sex workers, influencers, and celebrities charge subscribers for access to photos and videos, attributed the decision to pressure from banks and payment processors.


Yet, within a matter of days the company backtracked. The planned October policy change had been “suspended,” tweeted the company, following “assurances” from banks that adult content would not be penalized.


Sex sells


Founded in 2016, OnlyFans has attracted 130 million registered users and over 2 million creators. OnlyFans popularity took off during the pandemic, as the website’s user base rose from less than 20 million and transactions increased seven-fold to $2.36 billion.


The OnlyFans platform lets content creators sell photos, videos, and messages directly to users, anything from personalized songs to fitness workouts. High profile names, such as Bella Thorne and Cardi B, have recognized the website’s potential to market and sell exclusive content to fans.


While the service was not originally designed for adult content, the user-friendly interface and subscriber model has made it an attractive destination for sex workers. Creators keep 80% of their revenue, while OnlyFans takes a 20% cut.


The company has recently tried to distance itself from its porn-friendly reputation. On Aug. 17, it announced the launch of OFTV, a streaming platform and app which excludes sexually explicit content. OFTV can be distributed across operating systems which do not permit porn, such as iOS and Android.


Nonetheless, OnlyFans announcement on Aug. 19 that it would ban sexually explicit content on its main platform came as a shock to sex workers who depend on the service for income. Despite the company’s U-turn 6 days later, some creators vowed never to return.


The short answer is 'banks'


So why did OnlyFans (briefly) decide to ban the kind of content which had come to characterize its platform? The short answer is 'banks,' said Tim Stokely, the site’s British founder and chief executive.


Banks, he claimed, are refusing to process payments associated with adult content. In an interview with the FT, Stokely singled out BNY Mellon, Metro Bank, and JPMorgan Chase for blocking intermediary payments, preventing sex workers from receiving their earnings, and penalizing businesses which support sex workers. He declined to reveal OnlyFans current banking partners.


This follows similar behavior by payment service providers which have begun to dissociate from the porn industry. After a New York Times investigation found images of rape and child sex abuse on Pornhub, Mastercard and Visa prohibited the use of their cards on the site in Dec. 2020.


In response, Pornhub removed all content produced by unverified partners and implemented a verification program for users. In April this year, Mastercard announced tighter control on transactions of adult content to clamp down on illegal material. The requirements included that platforms verify ages and identities of their users.