One of the biggest platforms for performers worldwide is caving to the mounting pressure by payment processors essentially giving up the content that makes its bread and butter: porn by individual performers served to fans worldwide. Industry experts are again taking a deep look into crypto payments as an alternative.
While the efforts by governments all over the world to censor adult entertainment online largely fell flat, the industry might have a huge problem at its hand stemming from media and activist pressure on payment processors to cut their ties with porn.
Last year, Visa and Mastercard were pushed to act against Pornhub, as several articles in mainstream media catered to activist anti-porn groups highlighting the portal’s problematic handling of removing illegal or abusive content. The articles went on to claim Pornhub was responsible for the users’ uploads insinuating that the website was profiting from child abuse, illegal sex trafficking, and revenge porn.
The credit card processors briefly cut off all business with Pornhub forcing the portal to a long-overdue job: coming up with a dependable and swift removal policy. Regardless of the company’s fast actions, the headlines remained problematic. And the pressure on the industry kept mounting.
Now, OnlyFans, one of the safe-havens for performers threatened by censorship and discrimination on mainstream websites, has taken an unusual step to keep its payment processors. The platform is banning explicit sexual content, the main source of income for the larger share of the performers and artists on the site.
The statement by the company is sending shockwaves through the adult community »In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of our platform, and continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines.«
The site thrived during the pandemic and the online subscription service for individual models became one of the world’s top 400 websites by connecting viewers directly to content creators.
OnlyFans reported a 75% increase in new creators in May last year when the global lockdowns forced many members in the adult entertainment industry as well as sex workers to find alternative income sources.
It expects to gross 1.2 billion dollars in 2021 and became the biggest portal in that market. That spot will now be up for grabs by competitors as OnlyFans itself will only allow nudity in the future, not porn.
OnlyFans seems to hope that the porn ban will attract more investors and that it’ll be able to find new customers. But it’s highly unlikely that it will hold its estimated customer base of over 120 Million users.
Adult performer Allie Eve Knox, said: »That thing that [OnlyFans] gave us was a place to have a paywall (subscription price), a place for [pay-to-view] content (content that could be unlocked at a price), a content store (a place to offer and sell content), and a live stream site. We have had all of those individual sites for a while but [OnlyFans] was able to combine them.«
While there are still alternatives like Model Centro which will probably profit from OnlyFans withdrawal, the question remains for everyone in the industry: How to secure the payment processing if credit cards won’t be available anymore.
Many in the industry are again thinking about cryptocurrencies as an alternative for a sustainable future as the traditional payment processors don’t have to be part of the payment process. Crypto would grant more anonymity for users and independence from traditional banks and financial services that tend to discriminate or ban adult entertainment and sex work.
Knox thinks »Crypto can be helpful. There are tools that already exist in the crypto space that could make an [OnlyFans] competitor very doable.« Still, crypto-based competitors face more than technical challenges when it comes to adult content. And there are potential legal problems waiting ahead as governments worldwide are preparing or starting to think about regulating the crypto market.
The main problem, therefore, seems to be that the political and activist enemies of adult entertainment and sex work and many forces working against free speech have won more power in the last few years. Knox said: »Honestly, things that we need are things like support—helping us fight stigma, supporting us publicly, hiring sex workers, building platforms with us on the team, retweeting our content (that we all know everyone is buying)…so that things like this won’t happen.«
It remains to be seen if the industry will find a way to shift public opinion. For that topics like the protection of minors, ethical standards and huge degrees of self-regulating might be of vital importance for the survival of the industry as we know it.