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LONDON, UK – The London-based website known as OnlyFans, which has at least 130 million users and over 2 million people who create and sell content on the site, including performances sexually explicit, announced Wednesday that it had reversed a decision taken less than two weeks earlier to ban sexually explicit content on its site from October.
The reversal came after a wave of opposition to the proposed ban from its performers and clients, many of whom are members of the LGBTQ community who, like their heterosexual counterparts, have used the site to generate income during of the past year and a half during the Covid Pandemic.
OnlyFans said when it announced its earlier plan on Aug. 19 to ban sexually explicit content that it did so in response to concerns raised by banks and credit card companies who in recent years have threatened to stop processing payments to adult websites.
“Thank you all for making your voice heard,” OnlyFans said in a statement on Wednesday, August 25.
“We have obtained the assurances necessary to support our diverse community of creators and have suspended the policy change scheduled for October 1,” the statement said. “OnlyFans is all about inclusion, and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.”
When asked by CNN if OnlyFans’ use of the word “suspension” to end its planned ban on sexually explicit content meant that she could reinstate the ban at a later date if the credit card companies continued to Raising objections, OnlyFans responded by stating: “The proposed on October 1, 2021, changes are no longer needed due to the assurance of banking partners that OnlyFans can support all kinds of creators.
An official with the Free Speech Coalition, which serves as the professional industry association for adults, told Blade that an OnlyFans policy to ban sexually explicit content from its site would have a particularly harsh impact on groups. most vulnerable, including LGBTQ people, who depend on the site and other similar sites for a living through sex work.
Mike Stabile, public affairs director for the Free Speech Coalition in Los Angeles, said sites like OnlyFans have enabled sex workers to generate substantial income by performing at home rather than working on the streets, providing content to “fans” or customers. who pay them directly to see their performance.
“These platforms have allowed them not only to survive, but also to build equity and thrive,” Stabile said.
In an August 19 statement, the Free Speech Coalition said OnlyFans and other sites offering adult content have been targeted over the past two years by conservative religious groups and churches who the coalition says have falsely attempted to link adult websites to child sex trafficking.
Stabile told Blade that adult sites have long-standing safeguards in place that prevent sex traffickers from placing content on their sites. He said that in the past two years that the controversial federal law passed by Congress to hold adult sites accountable for sex trafficking, known as SESTA-FOSTA, was in effect, the law has rarely been used to prosecute sex traffickers and has yet to be used to shut down any sites used by consenting adults.
He noted that before SESTA-FOSTA took effect, prosecutors used existing laws to shut down Backpage, an adult site widely used by sex workers to interact with clients on the grounds that the site allegedly allowed sex traffickers to use the site.
Around the same time, Craigslist on its own volition removed all “personal” classifieds from its site, claiming it could not risk being held responsible for allegations of sex traffickers using its personal ads under of the SESTA-FOSTA Act, even though Craigslist has banned its site. to be used for sex trafficking or any non-consensual practice.
While no credible evidence has emerged that adult sites in any way allow sex traffickers to use these sites, the Free Speech Coalition has said that conservative religious groups that oppose any sex work and want to ban all pornography on the Internet began to put pressure on the banks. and credit card companies to stop serving adult sites.
Stabile points out that studies have shown that many more sex traffickers have managed to circumvent safeguards to prevent them from posting on sites with Facebook and Twitter than with adult sites. No online platform can be 100% effective in preventing a few traffickers from accessing their sites, Stabile said, but anti-trafficking groups blame adult sites more than major sites like Facebook.
Adult sites have repeatedly stated that they will cooperate with law enforcement to identify and help prosecute sex traffickers who target minors.
“Banks and credit card companies are risk averse institutions, easily scared off by potential bad publicity,” the Free Speech Coalition said in its August 19 statement. “Religious groups know this and have made no secret that they were targeting them in their quest to completely eliminate sex workers,” the statement said.
“In doing so, companies like Mastercard have become catalysts for these misogynistic anti-pornography, anti-LGBTQ groups,” the statement continued. “Companies like Mastercard are now complicit in the denial of the right to vote of millions of sex workers, complicit in pushing women workers away from independence into potentially more dangerous and exploitative conditions.”
A spokesperson for Mastercard told CNN earlier this week that he was not involved in OnlyFans’ initial decision to ban or restrict sexually explicit content on its site.
“It’s a decision they’ve come to on their own,” spokesman Seth Eisen told CNN.
But the Free Speech Coalition and other advocates in the adult industry point to a Mastercard policy announced in April that requires adult sites to put in place strict safeguards to prevent “illegal content” from being uploaded to their sites. Stabile noted that the new policy comes shortly after Mastercard and other credit card companies stopped serving Pornhub, the largest of the adult sites after allegations surfaced that sex traffickers were using it. site.
These developments have had a chilling effect on adult sites and the sex workers who rely on them for financial support, advocates for the adult industry have said.
Cyndee Clay, executive director of DC HIPS ‘sex worker advocacy group, which provides support to local gay and trans sex workers, said OnlyFans’ decision to ban sexually explicit content from her site, if left in place, would have a particularly damaging impact on DC’s Sex Workers.
“OnlyFans’ announcement is another devastating blow to the ability of sex workers to work and care for themselves and their families in an industry already fraught with stress and hardship during the pandemic,” he said. Clay told Blade before OnlyFans overturned his decision.
“Under threat from SESTA / FOSTA and when platforms like Backpage went down, HIPS saw a 100% increase in street sex work as people returned to the streets to survive when online options safer and more autonomous have been abolished, ”says Argile. “We have not banned all house cleaning services due to a few documented cases of forced domestic trafficking,” she said.
Clay, as officials of the Free Speech Coalition, pointed out that OnlyFans, which launched its site in 2016, has grown into a multi-million dollar operation thanks to the revenues it has generated by sex workers and their clients. online who have used the site more than any other “fan” or content creator.
When announcing its decision to ban or restrict sexually explicit content from its site, OnlyFans said the decision was based in part on concerns expressed by banks and credit card companies as well as its efforts. to obtain financing from investors reluctant to be associated. with companies that provide sexually explicit material.
“In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, we need to evolve our content guidelines,” OnlyFans said in a statement last week.
“Sites like OnlyFans have provided a safer online option for many sex workers during the pandemic,” HIPS director Clay said before OnlyFans overturned its earlier decision. “OnlyFans was a harm reduction alternative for sex workers who tried to be safe by avoiding personal contact, working in clubs or working on the streets,” she said. “It is immoral that we are now punishing sex workers for these efforts by removing this platform. “
Matt Lownik, an OnlyFans artist who lives in London, reached out to Blade to express concern over OnlyFans’ initial decision to ban sexually explicit content before the company rolls back the policy change.
Lownik said he currently has 144,000 followers on OnlyFans, one of his competing sites called JustForFans, and on a Twitter account.
“There are artists all over the world who use OnlyFans, and quite a few in the United States,” he said. “I have met several artists who live in or near DC, but I would say the majority that I have met are from New York or Los Angeles,” he told The Blade.
He said the fees that performers charge their subscribers vary widely, but most charge around $ 10 to $ 15 per month, with many artists having dozens or hundreds of subscribers. He said OnlyFans takes 20% of its artists’ income.