OnlyFans says it has suspended a plan to ban sexually explicit content following an outcry from its creators and advocates for sex workers.
The subscription site said in a prepared statement Wednesday that the planned ban was "no longer required due to banking partners' assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators" and declined to answer further questions.
OnlyFans had said last Thursday that it would ban explicit content starting Oct. 1, blaming policies of banks and payment processors for the policy change. "The new rules are necessary to comply with the requirements of these financial institutions and are the only way to help ensure the long-term sustainability of OnlyFans," the company said in a message to users last week.
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Last week's abrupt change upset the site's creators, many of whom threatened to move to another website. A lot of sex workers joined OnlyFans during the pandemic when in-person venues shut down or became more dangerous because of COVID-19. The site has been tremendously lucrative for some people, allowing them to earn thousands every month. OnlyFans says it has 130 million users and 2 million creators who have collectively earned $5 billion US.
Advocates had criticized OnlyFans' planned ban, saying they were concerned it would push people into more dangerous street-based sex work. They say taking away a safer virtual space and cutting people's income makes them more vulnerable to the risk of being trafficked.
"Not having the online outlet is going to hinder and harm a lot of people. Online is much safer, particularly for trans and gender nonconforming folks," said LaLa Zannell, the ACLU's trans justice campaign manager who leads the rights group's effort to decriminalize sex work.
The online porn industry is changing amid concerns about sex trafficking and the exploitation of minors. Two 2018 laws, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, were meant to stop sex trafficking online, and led some spaces to shut down. But many sex workers say these changes have also made their jobs more dangerous.
Elected officials had also raised concerns about OnlyFans. A bipartisan group of over 100 members of Congress called on the Justice Department to investigate OnlyFans earlier in August, saying the site was a "major marketplace" for sexual videos with children in them. The letter cited anti-porn group National Centre on Sexual Exploitation, which has its origins in the faith-based group Morality in Media, as a source, as well as the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.
OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely blamed banks such as Bank of New York Mellon for the planned ban in an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, saying they refuse the site's business.
Adult-content companies have to navigate higher fees and requirements from financial companies beyond what most retailers encounter.