OnlyFans is banning porn, the company announced today. It’s a surprise move meant to protect its partnerships with banks and payment providers. The platform will still allow creators to post nude photos and videos, but not any “sexually explicit conduct.” The change goes into effect starting in October.
KOWTOWING — The decision comes as the London-based company has reportedly been struggling to raise new funding, despite monumental growth, because investors are cautious or contractually prohibited from investing in adult content. But being a major platform for adult creators, OnlyFans risks alienating the very users who made it big in the first place.
OnlyFans confirmed the decision in a statement shared with Input:
Effective 1 October, 2021, OnlyFans will prohibit the posting of any content containing sexually-explicit conduct. In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines. Creators will continue to be allowed to post content containing nudity as long as it is consistent with our Acceptable Use Policy. These changes are to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers. 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.
Adding insult to injury, OnlyFans added that it “[remains] dedicated to our community of 130 million users and over 2 million creators that have earned over $5 billion on our platform.” When asked by Input what would happen to the existing NSFW content posted to OnlyFans prior to the October 1 cutoff, a spokesperson noted the official statement is “all we have to share at this stage.”
OnlyFans brings in money hand over fist, with revenue estimated to reach $2.5 billion in 2022 on total sales of $12.5 billion. Normally any other startup with that type of revenue would have no trouble raising money.
Sex sells, clearly, but banks are conservative and porn companies often struggle to find payment providers willing to do business with them. Being arguably the highest-profile company in the industry, it’s maybe surprising that OnlyFans allowed pornographic content as long as it did. Another company that allows creators to charge for their work, Patreon, ramped up its crackdown on adult content creators back in 2018 as payments providers turned the screws on it. These companies find it easier to ban the content altogether than trying to find a solution that works for all parties.
Because these platforms allow anyone to sign up, investors have reportedly been worried that minors could subscribe to see adult creators’ content — or make the content of their own. OnlyFans has been trying to raise money at a $1 billion valuation. And although it could be profitable without raising new money, the company has existing investors who want to sell their shares for a profit.
BETRAYAL — OnlyFans has always shied away from promoting the adult content on its platform in favor of SFW fare. It recently launched its first mobile app — that’s free of nudity. OnlyFans cannot offer its more raunchy content through apps on iOS or Android due to app store rules set by Apple and Google.
OnlyFans grew off the back of sex workers, who found a safe haven in the platform to charge their fans for access to explicit photos and videos. Unfortunately, there remains a stigma in the world surrounding sex, and OnlyFans empowering a new generation of entrepreneurs to run their own independent businesses — and make millions doing it — apparently wasn’t enough to change that perception.
Now instead of looking like a positive force in the world, OnlyFans could be seen as betraying the people who got it where it is today. Its turn away from explicit content could help it attract more upscale partners, and investors, but sex workers will remain in the underground economy where they’ve always been stuck as capitalism decides that their work isn’t acceptable.
Besides OnlyFans and Patreon, the microblogging site Tumblr also banned pornography in the interest of attracting advertisers. Adult creators are increasingly running out of spaces to make money on the internet that they have full ownership of.
OnlyFans could get past the porn to be a successful “creator economy” platform for other types of content, but its reputation has been pretty solidly ingrained as a go-to place for porn, so… good luck with that.