OnlyFans today announced an upcoming ban on “sexually explicit” material in a move that will affect a large amount of the content that creators post on the platform. Nudity will still be allowed, but OnlyFans has yet to detail where it will draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable content.
Critics of the move pointed out that it will reduce income for sex workers who helped make the site popular. OnlyFans said in a statement that it is making the change “to comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.” The new strategy also seems to be part of OnlyFans’ attempt to attract investors at a valuation of $1 billion, a project that has reportedly hit a roadblock because of the site’s racy content.
“Effective October 1, 2021, OnlyFans will prohibit the posting of any content containing sexually explicit conduct,” OnlyFans said in a statement the company provided to Ars. “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.”
OnlyFans did not define “sexually explicit conduct” or provide guidelines on what will and won’t be allowed. The company said it “will be sharing more details in the coming days and we will actively support and guide our creators through this change in content guidelines.” The Acceptable Use Policy currently says that content featuring “sexual activities” is allowed if it features only consenting adults and is not filmed in a public place, so there will presumably be some changes to that text by October 1.
OnlyFans, a UK company founded in 2016, says it has 200 employees, 150 million registered users, and over 1.5 million content creators. It says it “has paid out over $3 billion in creator earnings” since its founding.
Sex workers “built [OnlyFans] into a major platform”
“OnlyFans would be nothing without the sex workers whose labor built it up into a major platform,” journalist and labor organizer Kim Kelly wrote on Twitter today. “Now it’s tossing them aside and removing a vital source of income from a population of workers who are disproportionately marginalized and have no protections under US labor law.”
OnlyFans made $375 million in net revenue in 2020 and expects $1.2 billion in 2021 and $2.5 billion in 2022, an Axios report today said. Despite its revenue, OnlyFans “is struggling to find outside investors, according to multiple sources,” Axios wrote. OnlyFans hired a merchant bank to help it solicit venture capital in the spring, but “[s]everal deep-pocketed firms quickly passed, not even engaging in serious due diligence,” the report said.
“In short, OnlyFans has a porn problem, even though it never once mentions porn in its pitch-deck (something that multiple investors called ‘disingenuous’),” the report said. The pitch-deck, compiled at the end of March, said that over 300 OnlyFans creators earn at least $1 million a year and that about 16,000 earn at least $50,000 a year, Axios wrote.
Obviously, banning much of the content that makes OnlyFans popular could significantly reduce its user base and revenue. “Did no one at OnlyFans call Verizon to ask how Tumblr worked out?” telco and antitrust attorney Paul Overbite asked on Twitter.
Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion in 2013, and Verizon bought Yahoo’s operating business, including Tumblr, for $4.48 billion in June 2017. Verizon banned porn and most nudity on Tumblr about six months after buying Yahoo, and in 2019, it sold Tumblr to Automattic. Tumblr was by then worth a fraction of its previous value. The sale price wasn’t announced but was reportedly “well below” $20 million.