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OnlyFans is stupidly banning porn over pressure from payment processors

First, there was Tumblr, now there’s OnlyFans – the latest casualty in digital gentrification.

The subscriber-only website that’s become synonymous with ethical sex work and pornography will now focus on more mainstream content from October 1 – whatever the hell that means.

The company announced on Thursday that it will prohibit creators from posting material containing “any content containing sexually-explicit conduct” on its website, which many sex workers use to sell explicit content.

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“These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers,” the company said in a statement.

“We will be sharing more details in the coming days and we will actively support and guide our creators through this change in content guidelines.”

Creators will still be allowed to put up tasteful nude photos and videos, provided they’re consistent with OnlyFans’ policy, after mounting pressure from its banking and payment provider partners.

“In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of our platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines,” OnlyFans said in a statement emailed to The Verge.

The London-headquartered site exploded in popularity during lockdown, bringing in billions of pounds of revenue as more than 130 million home-stuck users subscribed to content, or paid to chat with “creators”.

OnlyFans has enabled tens of thousands of sex workers to earn substantial incomes, in return for handing over 20 per cent of their earnings to the company.

In fact, figures from Axios show that roughly 16,000 creators earn at least $50,000 (£36,000) annually from the site.

OnlyFans insists it has a wide range of people creating material for the site, from chefs, to psychics, though it’s clear that the most popular content on the site is porn.

But why is OnlyFans making such a cowardly move?

The ban allegedly followed pressure from banks and payment processors who raised concerns about the material it hosts.

Since its explosion, OnlyFans has incurred both regulatory and political scrutiny over its ability to remove exploitative and illegal material.

In fact, earlier this month, over a hundred US congressmen and women demanded a DOP investigation into OnlyFans over the alleged presence of underage material, and revenge porn on the site.

Rather than lose its ability to take payments – which would kill the site altogether – OnlyFans has chosen to ban the adult material that made it a household name.

However, while some creators have been shocked by the announcement, others could foresee this move from a mile away.

Sites such as Tumblr gained criticism for a similar move back in 2018-2019, following the discovery that child pornography was prominent on the site in December 2018.

Tumblr announced that they would be banning adult content in almost every form.

This included all images and videos depicting sex acts, and real-life photos and videos depicting human genitalia or “female-presenting” nipples being banned from the service.

MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub, also deleted upwards of 10 million videos in an effort to combat illegal and unverified material in 2020, after Visa and Mastercard briefly banned payments to websites owned by the pornography giant due to reports it was hosting “revenge porn”.

While issues of revenge porn and underage explicit material is definitely cause for concern, sex workers and activists can’t help but notice OnlyFans’ lack of loyalty to the creators that popularised the site in the first place.

Many sex workers and creators are currently taking to social media, to either vent the spinelessness of letting banks have the final say, or the inability to see the historical damage that banning pornographic material has had on sites such as Tumblr.

One thing is certain right now, the autonomy and safety that OnlyFans provided to sex workers is about to fall through, and this spells out difficult times for an already-marginalised community.

Remember, sex work is still work.