Friday, September 24

OnlyFans announces it will ban porn, blames the financial industry and backs down after six days


OnlyFans, the popular porn subscription website, announced on August 19 that it would ban “sexually explicit content” from October 1. Six days later, the company has backed down and said it will not. In between, the CEO has come out on the Financial times accusing banks of hindering their business and those who sell content on the platform have left scared in search of other options. What’s going on here?

In a brief statement published last week, OnlyFans said it would ban explicit content – not nudity – to “ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform.” The company, founded by an English family and whose majority shareholder is the Ukrainian-American investor Leonid Radvisnky, pointed to banks and payment gateways to explain its decision.

“The changes will be made to meet the requirements of our banking partners and payment service providers,” he said at the time. Similarly, in a statement sent this Wednesday to explain his backward movement, he affirms that the proposed changes “are no longer necessary” due to the “guarantees” that banks have given them to house all kinds of “genres of creators.” The CEO had accused BNY Mellon bank of rejecting payments that OnlyFans makes to its content ‘creators’.

The ‘creator’ is a broad term that ranges from people who upload videos to TikTok or YouTube, influence Instagram with their photos and direct on Twitch to others who sell explicit content to third parties through OnlyFans. Among the latter there are, however, people who prefer to avoid the euphemism and claim to be recognized as sex workers.

Those who know the porn industry weren’t too surprised by the first OnlyFans ad. “It’s the same thing that happened with Patreon. Until 2018, you could sell sexual content. From one day to the next they did the same because of PayPal,” explains Anneke Necro, producer of pornography and user of OnlyFans. “All websites use payment gateways and all payment gateways are managed by Visa and Mastercard, who have been deciding what can and cannot be sold for a long time. It is a war against explicit content.”

In the six days that OnlyFans’ porn ban has lasted, different culprits have been identified. First of all, the American medium Axios alluded to potential investors. According to this information, OnlyFans is looking for external investment to grow – despite the fact that in 2020 it had a turnover of more than 1.7 billion pounds and obtained 43 in profit – but venture capital funds are scared of the porn sector. Is it feasible? Financial sources consulted by elDiario.es recognize that, when one raises money to create a venture capital fund, they must explain very well in which sectors they intend to invest it.

“Often times, investors do not want to have to manage reputational issues and be said to be investing in porn,” say these sources. In addition, there are institutional actors (for example, the European Investment Bank) that rule out investing in sectors such as gambling, prostitution, tobacco, pornography, homeopathy or weapons, leading others to imitate them.

The role of Visa and Mastercard

Second, many glances fell on payment service providers Visa and Mastercard. Both have refused to make statements to elDiario.es. The thorny relationship of these two financial giants with the world of pornography goes back a long way. Less than a year ago, the two of them banned Pornhub – another popular porn video platform – because The New York Times published a report saying that it hosted videos of minors, rape and revenge porn (that is, sex videos recorded without consent).

As a result of that, Pornhub began to allow payments with cryptocurrencies and Mastercard, coinciding with the ‘boom’ that OnlyFans experienced during the pandemic, updated its terms of service for adult content sellers.

Mastercard’s new policy requires banks to have any adult content marketer using their network verify the age and identity of the people featured in each video and those who upload it and review all posted content. In addition, sellers must resolve cases of illegal content in less than seven days and remove content if requested by whoever appears in it. Industry sources indicate that Visa’s policies, which has not made any statements in any media, follow the same line. The CEO of OnlyFans stated in his interview in the Financial Times that the ban on porn had nothing to do with these new policies, because the company already complies with them thanks to its team of a thousand moderators.

This is confirmed by several OnlyFans users. “It was very difficult for me to open the account due to the amount of paperwork they asked me to do,” says Necro. “The mechanisms are very complicated. You have to prove that the bank account belongs to you, even that you live in the house where you record. Despite the fact that it is said that illegal content is stored on Pornhub and OnlyFans, the truth is that it is more easy to find child pornography on Twitter and Facebook. ”

Meraki, another sex worker who sells content on OnlyFans, adds that the company reviews everything in detail. “They have even deleted videos for me because they could see a finger of my boy and they told me I had to verify it,” he says. In its terms of use, OnlyFans prohibits content that includes weapons, drugs, self-harm, incest, violence and rape, necrophilia, eschatological material (and users understand that this includes the menstrual content), material uploaded without consent and prostitution services.

That OnlyFans already complied with the new card policy does not mean that they do not define what is acceptable and what is not, as the producer Necro explained. “The crusade against porn and sex shops on the internet it started many years ago. Exodus Cry [una organización cristiana que aboga por la abolición de todo el trabajo sexual, incluida la pornografía] he’s been pushing since 2007, “he says.

What’s more: the anti-pornography organization NCOSE (National Center on Sexual Exploitation, formerly called Morality in Media) scored both the OnlyFans porn ban assuring that it was the result of his intense work of lobby with card companies. NCOSE has not only gone against PornHub and OnlyFans, but also against Netflix, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Reddit, and Discord. He accuses all of them of “facilitating or profiting” from sexual abuse and exploitation.

“Pressure from conservative groups applies to any centralized entity that has the ability to financially dismantle people who do not seem acceptable,” says Evan Greer, director of the digital rights organization Fight for the Future. “These organizations exploit a weakness in the functioning of the internet. They work because a few companies control digital finance: the big banks and payment gateways.”

From Fight for the Future they believe that the change of opinion of OnlyFans is a victory for sex workers, but they condemn their attitude. “They are responsible for this situation. They choose to accept the pressure rather than spend part of their profits defending sex workers, the community that has helped them to be who they are.”

Menstrual blood, for example, is not only not allowed on OnlyFans but on many other pages. “If you, as a producer, want to sell that fetish, you can’t. The producers sign a contract and censor themselves because they know they can check the page, close the payment gateway and remain unpaid. With PayPal it has happened many times,” Necro continues. “And yes they do review it. For example, it is forbidden to use imaginary that has to do with Disney. I did not know it, and one of the first times I directed for a well-known production company I included a scene in which there was a Star Wars poster They wrote for us to remove it. ”

PayPal and Stripe directly prohibit the use of their service to buy or sell material “of a sexual nature” (they also prohibit other uses, such as drugs or gambling). That’s why subscription services like Ko-Fi, similar to Patreon, prohibit the sale of sexual content and discharge responsibilities. “Without payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe, there would be no Ko-fi. Ko-fi facilitates payments using PayPal and Stripe. As a result, creators must adhere to their terms of use.”

Payment gateways for “high risk businesses”

If the big financial companies are tightening the fence on pornography, how do the websites that continue to dedicate themselves to it do? Because in reality there are alternatives, well known by the companies in the industry and by OnlyFans itself. They are the so-called high-risk payment gateways, specialized in pornography, gambling or cannabis-related businesses. They are considered high risk because the percentage of fraud in these sectors is high. In fact, and as we already have in elDiario.es, OnlyFans has a high percentage of fraudulent payments: people who pay with stolen cards or people who pay, see the content and ask for their money back.

CCBill and EPoch are two of the best known. OnlyFans works with CCBill, like the Spanish Putalocura. “We worked with them from the beginning. They allow us to pay with all kinds of cards. The only thing they have told us is that we cannot publish scenes in which the girl appears asleep, because it could simulate a rape, or show how they are given money” , explains its owner, the well-known Torbe, to date involved in several legal cases related to pornography. “Other than that, there aren’t many restrictions.” These types of gateways charge much higher commissions, between 10% and 20% per transaction. Torbe adds that it is the only option and that “Spanish banks refuse to work with the world of porn.”

Hubite, the OnlyFans directory created by three young Spaniards, also uses CCBill. “Of each purchase, they keep 10%. And they also impose a reserve on you, another percentage of each purchase that they keep for six months in case you disappear and don’t pay them. That is: if I sell a hundred, they charge me 10 and they keep five additional “, relates David Conelly, one of the creators. “Payment gateways have beastly power, but the source of everything is Visa and Mastercard.”

Financial impediments are not unique to the world of adult content. Although the sale of CBD (a component of cannabis without psychoactive effects) is legal in Spain and other countries, banks and platforms refuse to work with companies in the sector.

“We suffer something similar,” acknowledges Rafa Ortiz, CEO of Uncanny, a CBD products store. “Both we and the brands we work with have spent a lot of time and money offering secure means of payment. We finally managed to work with Redsys through BBVA, but many banks in Spain rejected the request. The main problem we found in the Time to expand our business abroad, because Stripe, Adyen and Global Collect have all denied us service. It is very frustrating. ”

Although it has already backed off, after the first OnlyFans announcement many content creators desperately searched for other options. In addition to new platforms such as Fansly, some are beginning to opt for private channels (for example, on Telegram) and means of payment that escape censorship. “I have created my own website,” Meraki concludes. “I will charge through Verse or Bizum and send my content manually, encrypted through Mega. That way they cannot review it.”





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