Last week, the subscriber-based social media platform OnlyFans made headlines when executives announced that it would put an end to "sexually explicit" content on October 1.
The platform is widely popular among sex workers, creators, influencers, and even celebrities who charge subscribers for exclusive content such as photos and videos that they would not find anywhere else. Most of the time, this content is of sexual nature. The company said it caved into pressure from financial institutions that wanted them to ban pornographic content on the site.
But the company has decided to suspend its policy banning pornographic content on the OnlyFans platform. The company took to Twitter to share, "We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change. OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators."
OnlyFans was founded in 2016 and since then has been home to 130 million registered users and more than 2 million creators. TIME reported that the platform grew in popularity during the pandemic, when its user base grew from less than 20 million and transactions multiplied seven-fold to $2.36 billion. According to Axios, OnlyFans has paid a total of $3.2 billion to its creators since its inception. Among its creators, 300 of them earn at least $1 million annually, while up to 16,000 earn at least $50,000 annually.
It is a lucrative business, but CEO Tim Stokely said that the "short answer" as to why they decided to ban pornographic content on the platform was because of "banks." According to The Verge, Stokely cited three major banks that refused service to OnlyFans because of the "reputational risk" associated with the platform's sexual material.
These banks were Bank of New York Mellon, Metro Bank, and JPMorgan Chase. BNY Mellon even "flagged and rejected" all wire transactions involving OnlyFans, which threatened its ability to pay the creators using the platform.
But the suspension of the policy banning pornographic content on OnlyFans has not only angered sex workers who use the site and claim that they've lost subscribers and subsequently revenue, it has also earned backlash from conservative Christian groups. Christian Today reported that the U.K.-based CARE or Christian Action, Research, and Education organization criticized OnlyFans' reversal on the ban of pornographic content on its platform.
Lauren Agnew, Human Trafficking Officer at CARE argued that the platform is a means by which "vulnerable people can be coerced into commercial sexual exploitation." The move to ban pornographic content on OnlyFans could have "disincentivized this form of exploitation on the site by making it unprofitable," she said. However, the reversal of the ban now makes it easier for vulnerable women and children to be exploited.
"It's clear what happened here. OnlyFans realised curbing sexually explicit content would affect its profits," Agnew argued, adding that financial institutions that initially have raised concerns over OnlyFans' content possibly changed their minds or merely turned a blind eye.
"This is a classic case of corporate greed trumping corporate responsibility. It is shameful."