Not all explicit content from OnlyFans disappears; simple nudity will always be allowed, the company said, as long as it complies with the platform’s other policies. Only “content containing sexually explicit conduct” – which presumably means sexual acts in front of a camera – will be banned, he said in a statement.
OnlyFans’ move is also the result of a much broader and concerted crackdown over the past few years across explicit parts of the internet, driven largely by a group of powerful and increasingly assertive companies: the payment processors behind the scenes handling every swipe of your credit card, whether you’re paying for gas, shopping for groceries, or, yes, tip an artist on OnlyFans.
In its announcement this week, OnlyFans said its decision was motivated with a view to building a long-term sustainable platform. “These changes must comply with the demands of our banking partners and payment providers,” he added.
Seth Eisen, a spokesperson for Mastercard, told CNN Business he was not involved in OnlyFans’ decision to restrict what content he would allow on the platform. “It’s a decision they came to on their own,” Eisen said. (Other payment processors did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.)
OnlyFans’ decision to attribute its policy change to payment companies reflects how the financial industry has increasingly leaned against sites that share adult content. But the problem, they say, is not mere prudishness, but legal exposure.
“I think we’re on the verge of a cultural shift in the financial industry that takes this issue much more seriously,” said Haley McNamara, vice president of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, an advocacy group that started last year to pressure payment companies to act more aggressively on sexually abusive content.
Credit card companies are increasingly aware of their own potential legal risk, McNamara added, if they are accused of facilitating sex trafficking or the dissemination of child pornography.
Then, in April, Mastercard implemented a series of new requirements governing adult content transactions. The move, Mastercard said, was aimed at tackling illegal adult material.
“Banks that connect merchants to our network will need to certify that the adult content seller has effective controls in place to monitor, block and, if necessary, remove any illegal content,” Mastercard said.
Platforms would be required to verify the age and identity of those who posted and were represented in online porn, Mastercard said, and would have to have a process to review adult content before it is posted. Adult sites should have a complaints process that can “respond” to illegal or non-consensual content within seven days, and provide avenues for people portrayed in adult content to request removal of that content.
The new rules have revealed the power of the payments industry to shape the way millions of people experience the internet. And Mastercard is not the only one.
“Mastercard is the most proactive, [but] we had conversations with Visa and other credit cards [networks] too, ”McNamara said.“ A number of payment processors are waiting to see how Mastercard’s policies perform. ”
The financial industry’s muscle flexing has drawn criticism from digital rights activists who argue that it weighs heavily.
Now sex workers are raising their voices again, this time to defend their ability to represent themselves on digital platforms like OnlyFans.
The creation of what is essentially a new content policy regime enforced by private payment networks says a lot more about the influence of the financial sector than about the websites subject to its enforcement, according to legal experts.
Payment processors have every right to determine which transactions they will and will not support on their networks. In that regard, they’re not that different from platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which are hugely powerful in themselves, said Danielle Citron, a University of Virginia law professor who studies content moderation in. online and who also helps run Cyber Civil. Rights Initiative, a group that campaigns against non-consensual pornography.
Citron wants to see changes to Section 230 that could expose platforms to greater liability in certain circumstances. Perhaps, she said, these changes could even allow sex workers who believe their businesses have been wronged by payment processors to sue them for tortious interference.
“We’re talking about OnlyFans, where we see sex workers doing safe work. It’s from their homes, they create content on their own terms,” Citron said.
“Payment processors have tremendous power over sites like OnlyFans and Pornhub,” she added. “These are private companies. But should we be worried about what kind of power they have?
Fixed: An earlier version of this story misrepresented OnlyFans’ stance on Creator Verification. The platform requires government-issued photo ID and a selfie as part of its verification process.