OnlyFans, a social media platform where users can sell subscription access to content, said on Thursday that it would ban sexually explicit imagery starting in October.
The company said in a statement that it would block users from posting explicit photos and videos at the request of its “banking partners and payout providers.” OnlyFans said it would still allow people to post imagery containing nudity that complied with its guidelines.
“In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform,” the company said, “we must evolve our content guidelines.”
A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to questions about who had made the request or what had prompted the shift.
The change comes as OnlyFans has struggled to secure funding from investors who are hesitant to associate with the company’s sexually explicit material, Axios reported.
It was not clear how OnlyFans, which is based in Britain, would determine which images and videos featuring nudity were sexually explicit once the ban took effect. The company already blocks posts containing sexual assault, violence or bestiality, and it bars minors from the platform.
OnlyFans has become a source of income for two million creators, including sex workers, during the pandemic. The company said it had helped to democratize sex work, in part by letting creators effectively run their own businesses and own the content that they post on the site. Creators have collectively earned more than $4.5 billion since OnlyFans started nearly five years ago, the company said.
The platform has more than 130 million users who pay monthly fees to creators to view feeds of imagery that’s often too racy for Instagram or TikTok. With that access, subscribers can also send direct messages and “tip” creators to get pictures or videos on demand, according to their sexual tastes.
Celebrities have joined the platform in the past year, helping to usher it into the mainstream. Cardi B, Tyga, Chris Brown and Bella Thorne have all set up profiles. Social media influencers have also hopped on board, including many from TikTok and YouTube. The YouTube star Tana Mongeau joined OnlyFans last year. The Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway said she earns six figures by sharing literary-inspired pornography on her page.
Many sex workers, strippers and porn stars rely on OnlyFans as a primary source of income. As word of the ban spread on Thursday morning, many of them frantically traded messages in group chats, trying to determine what would and would not be banned. Meredith Jacqueline, 36, who has been an OnlyFans creator for two years, said that the ban would be devastating to her and others.
“People are not going to be able to make ends meet,” she said. “People are going to lose the roofs over their heads.”
Kenneth Pabon, 22, an OnlyFans creator in New York, joined the platform last year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and is using his income from the site to pay off his student loans. “OnlyFans is how I pay my rent,” he said. “I feed myself from this.”
“Someone said it’s like Burger King saying they’re not selling burgers anymore,” Mr. Pabon added. “This is what OnlyFans is known for.”
The Adult Performance Artists Guild, the labor union that represents OnlyFans and webcam creators and dancers, said on Twitter on Thursday that “the potential income loss that many may face due to upcoming Onlyfans changes can cause duress and fear.”
“We want to express that we are working to get answers,” the guild said. “As this happens, we want performers to know we are here to offer support and services.”
Creators attempted to reach out to the platform seeking clarity about what would and would not be banned. “Who is to determine when a photo is sexually explicit or when it’s a woman’s body?” Ms. Jacqueline said.
The company offered no further information.
“OnlyFans remains committed to the highest levels of safety and content moderation of any social platform,” the company said in its statement on Thursday. “All creators are verified prior to being able to upload any content to OnlyFans, and all uploaded content is checked by automated systems and human moderators.”
Many creators were quick to call attention to the way they believed the tech industry exploits sex workers for profit and user growth, hanging them out to dry once a platform is big enough to go mainstream.
“As someone who does sex work on OF, I’m very angry,” said an OnlyFans creator known online as Jasmine Rice, 23, who founded a content subscription platform called Fanhouse. OnlyFans, she added, “made all their profits off the back of sex workers and are now discarding them.”
OnlyFans is just the latest platform to crack down on sexually explicit content. Full nudity is banned on Facebook and Instagram. In 2018, use of Tumblr plummeted after the site banned pornography, which had been popular on the platform. Twitter is the only social platform that still allows users to post photos and videos containing full nudity, including pornography.
Last week, OnlyFans released a separate “safe for work” app called OFTV where creators can upload nudity-free content, such as vlogs and cooking videos.