In a move that seems simultaneously completely inexplicable and wholly unsurprising, OnlyFans has announced that—staring in October—it will ban users from uploading “any sexually explicit content.” That comes from Bloomberg, and if you don’t know why that might be a big deal, we should point out that OnlyFans is a website where… users upload sexually explicit content. That’s kind of the whole deal. It’s like Patreon, but instead of a podcast you’re paying money for someone’s nudes.
Well, not anymore! There will supposedly still be nudes, but OnlyFans is apparently drawing the line there (and even then the line seems predictably ill-defined), with the company making the change due to “mounting pressure from banking partners and payment providers.” According to a statement released by OnlyFans, it’s banning the stuff people use OnlyFans for in order to “ensure the long-term sustainability of our platform” and to “continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans.” The policy change goes into effect in October.
The key word there is “platform,” and though OnlyFans isn’t quite saying the quiet part loud, they are saying it at a pretty normal volume. Basically, OnlyFans can only make so much money as a company if it’s selling porn, regardless of the fact that it’s selling porn in such a way that the people producing it are active participants in how it’s distributed, giving sex workers a safe outlet to do what they want to do on their own terms. So, by banning porn, they can forcibly rebrand OnlyFans as some kind of loosely nudity-based social media platform with no explicit sexual content, which is going to naturally be much more appealing to potential investors (or buyers) who want to profit off of the site’s existing 130 million users.
Meanwhile, the creators who made OnlyFans what it is and who may depend on the platform it created for their livelihood, get screwed. Bloomberg says $2 billion in transactions were made on the site last year, 20 percent of which goes into the company’s pocket, but it’s hard to imagine that it would continue to make that kind of money without relying on the thing people use OnlyFans for, which is what makes this new policy seem so craven. Patreon and similar sites like that already exist, so it seems hard to believe that OnlyFans could make more money by abandoning the specific niche that made it successful, which, again, indicates that this is being done solely to make OnlyFans seem more marketable to investors or buyers.
It’s just a shame that there isn’t a test case that OnlyFans could look at for why this sort of thing is a bad idea. Like, maybe another website that banned explicit content like this in a very poorly planned way? You know, like Tumblr did? So not only was this very easy to see coming, because this is what internet companies all end up doing, but it will also be easy to see coming when it doesn’t work out very well for anyone involves (especially the OnlyFans users who are getting impacted by this).