The news of OnlyFans banning all adult content is shocking—that’s what the service is known for. So, why now? Why the sudden change of direction? What does it mean for OF? And, more importantly, what does this mean for the adult entertainment industry?
Banking partners and payment processors are pressuring the service.
A Violation of Terms and Conditions
You most likely know how much pull a partner bank or credit card processor has on a business. Terms and conditions go on for miles outlining exactly what can and can’t be sold using their service. OnlyFans hasn’t changed its banking partners or payment processors. In fact, OF has been technically violating the terms of its banking contract since the first account selling sexually explicit content.
We don’t know exactly what those terms are, but it’s safe to say OF has been operating outside the high-risk merchant arena. And just like smaller businesses using services like PayPal or Stripe, OnlyFans is also subject to getting shut down if found in violation of its terms.
Proof that OF’s sexually explicit content was taken lightly by banks and processors is how easily the platform promoted adult content. Promos for top creators appeared across the platform over the past year at least, meaning OF never tried to hide what creators were publishing. If it made money, then it wasn’t a problem.
Why This Didn’t Happen Sooner
OnlyFans has a valuation of over $1 billion, as reported by Bloomberg. A business of this size is bound to be allowed a few slaps on the wrist. Banks and payment providers are afraid of sexual content in part due to reputation, but that’s not the whole of it. They have to take into account legality of content which leads to who will moderate what’s posted and how they’ll do it.
The platform recently released its first monthly transparency report ever. This report was pretty revealing in the fact that they didn’t reveal much at all. Just 15 accounts were deactivated in total (of the thousands that are active). There’s also a big scandal coming up now about illegal sexual content being distributed on the platform. We won’t go into detail about this, but you can read the BBC investigation here. So that begs the question: what were moderators doing?
OnlyFans creators were given extreme leniency if they were top sellers. That makes a lot of sense in the financial world—why punish the ones making the social platform the most money? But, of course, that was destined to fall apart.
Rise and Fall of OnlyFans
While this ordeal appears quite damning to the online adult content industry, it’s does not signify the end.
OnlyFans burst onto the scene mostly during the pandemic and even just last year when top online porn video streaming platforms went under fire from credit card networks. There was a big purge of content and a serious push towards subscriber and content creator safety. In light of all this, OF was a safe place to monetize content.
Explicit content is expected on the platform. Most creators are sex workers, porn stars (professional and amateur). It brings to mind when Bella Thorne used OF as a tease. Her content was technically part of the acceptable use policy, but it certainly didn’t sit well with fans. Why? Because users expect nudity and adult content, and OnlyFans creators are expected to provide it.
OnlyFans banning sexually explicit content is a direct consequence of failing to moderate the platform, adhere to the terms provided by payment processors, and—most might say—greed. Now, it’s dedicated to completely overhauling the platform to host only SFW content with its new iOS app, OFTV. Even so, the platform and its CEO, Tim Stokely, are still having trouble finding investors, according to Axios.
OF has state they will allow nudity under new content guidelines, but sexually explicit conduct is banned starting in October according to a new policy which will be released in the coming days.
So, what does this mean for your adult business? Not as much as fear leads you to believe.
The Future of the Adult Entertainment Industry
As with every scandal or breakthrough investigation, there’s a shockwave of anxiety and fear across the affected industry. Here’s the major point to remember: the adult entertainment industry isn’t going anywhere.
Taking Cues from Tumblr
Remember when Verizon banned adult content from Tumblr? What’s happening with OF is nearly the same.
Tumblr was one of the leading platforms for sharing adult content at the time. For similar reasons, Verizon nixed the platforms porn correlation and lost a majority of publishers and users. Later, Tumblr was sold to WordPress owner, Automattic Inc., for just a fraction of what Verizon paid because of how negatively impactful that move was.
Just to note, Tumblr still doesn’t technically allow adult content on the platform, but that content can still be found there. It’s hidden behind a few privacy toggles on both the viewer’s and uploader’s settings.
OnlyFans is different, though. It’s not just a place for users to create and share adult content, it’s also a marketplace where content can be purchased (or, more accurately, rented). There’s a monetary presence here that didn’t exist on Tumblr.
If there’s anything to learn from the Tumblr debacle, it’s users make a platform. Which is sort of the golden rule of any successful business: go to your audience, don’t make them come to you. The initial intention for OnlyFans and Tumblr might have been for SFW content, but that’s not what the user’s saw. And if you take away the feature most used by the community, then you’ll no longer have a community. Read: bad for business.
Privacy, Consent, and Safety
The adult entertainment industry and sex work may not be going away, but that doesn’t mean things won’t change. In the very least, banks, payout providers, and investors will most likely require better security, moderation, and transparency—none of which are unique to any industry in 2021.
Payment providers have always been a bit prudish with porn and sexual content sellers. But there’s always a way around that hurdle. Of course, we’re talking about what we have expertise in: high-risk merchant accounts. This is a great simplification, but if OF decided to create and promote a new platform for SFW content while keeping the porn-friendly version of OnlyFans live, they could swap out payment providers and banks to ensure a safe and profitable service without hiccups.
With that said, privacy and safety with assuredly become a major concern again for the industry. Safety for users, creators, performers, and producers. That safety will become more apparent as transparency reports are demanded. The problems with OnlyFans’ transparency report are: there’s just one and it only covers July 2021; there are very few banned users; and there are even fewer reported pieces of content.
A clean transparency report is amazing on the surface—every business owner wants to prove they run a smooth, spotless company. But the reality is that this is rarely the case. Proving that you, as a business owner, did something about illegal content, revenge porn, potential trafficking, and other unsafe material is much better than ignoring it for a clean record.
Consent is a big come-up for the industry. PornHub and other streaming adult platforms have already implemented regulations surrounding consent, so the concept isn’t particularly new. But OnlyFans is late to the game, and it is costing them now that Visa and Mastercard are putting their feet down.
All in all, these moves are for the safety of everyone involved in creating, uploading, sharing, and viewing adult content. It makes sense. Sex workers, porn stars, and influencers saw the platform as a safe place to work and interact with fans. Now that it’s going away, there’s a worry about where to head next and what the next source of income will be. Some are taking to social media and forums to express their anger and call upon regulators or President Biden to stand up to them. But there are consequences when safety measures aren’t acted on from the beginning.
How OnlyFans Bans Content Affects Your Adult Entertainment Business
Don’t let the news scare you too much, but be prepared to document everything. Here are some things you could do to improve your standing in the industry.
Moderate Your Content
Content moderation is extremely helpful for streaming adult entertainment. Whether you use an automated process, manual moderation, or a mix of the two, it’s one of the best things you can do to keep your business off the chopping block.
Use Consent Forms
Have all of your models sign consent forms for every photoshoot, video, and chat they appear in. Then file those forms away neatly organized so you can quickly reach in when called upon. This also applies to videographers, photographers, lighting personnel, editors, website developers, and viewers. Everyone involves needs to be aware of what they’re doing and consent to it.
Create Transparency Reports
Transparency reports are useful for proving that you’ve taken action against illegal activity on your site. It’s a direct correlation between the size of your user base, the amount of content on your platform, and the action you’ve taken to screen it all for safety. The transparency report is a summary of all the effort you and your team have made in the past month and demonstrate your dedication to safety.
Get a High-Risk Merchant Account
It’s no secret the porn industry is high-risk for banks and processors. Stop using a standard merchant account and get one that aligns with your business. Aside from paying less fees or lower rates, you also get an appropriate acquiring bank and card processor/payment gateway. An adult merchant account should be a priority if you don’t have one already.
What happens with OnlyFans now is unclear. Many see the platform disintegrating. It’s hard to imagine, after this past week of news, that OF will bounce back in popularity seeing how quickly the company is willing to drop its users. The platform reflects the grip banks have on businesses, societal dependency, and safety. Let that be a testament to the future of the adult entertainment industry.