That’s what “not safe for work” (NSFW) subscription social network site OnlyFans believes it is worth following a massive increase in traffic due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.
In 2020 alone, OnlyFans brought in over $2 billion in sales, which resulted in $400 million in revenue thanks to its 20% cut of creator fees. The number of OnlyFans creators increased by around 40%, while the number of users went from 7.5 million to 85 million. And the site is only growing in popularity.
“So what?” you’re probably wondering. “Why is it such a big deal that OnlyFans is doing well for itself by capitalizing on the pandemic?”
We’re glad you asked.
The reason it’s a big deal is that some OnlyFans users aren’t only capitalizing on the pandemic—some are reportedly capitalizing on children and underage teens, too.
Here’s a brief catch-up if you aren’t sure what OnlyFans is.
In 2016, the site was founded by Tim Stokely. Stokely is an entrepreneur who dabbled in the porn industry by creating a bondage and fetish site in 2011 that permitted people to pay porn performers for custom content. Similar to the bondage and fetish site, OnlyFans allows content creators to post content and receive payments directly from “fans” in the form of one-time tips and monthly subscriptions.
Creators on OnlyFans charge a minimum of $5 for tips or paid messages and also rake in anywhere from $4.99 to $49.99 a month per subscriber. Like we mentioned, the site gets a cut of those fees—20% of every payment that is made on the platform goes back to OnlyFans.
You can think of the site like Instagram with a paywall—meaning that photos and videos require payment for access. The idea behind the paywall is that it helps “fans” foster “deeper connection” with their favorite content creators by paying for exclusive and personalized content.
Though the site’s paywall helps to keep kids from accessing explicit content, unlike other free-to-access mainstream porn sites, there are other serious issues with the site that we’ll explain next.
It’s important to note that not all content on OnlyFans is pornographic, but a lot of it is, and that’s where much of the site’s popularity and money is coming from.
While there are decades of research from respected institutions to illustrate the various harmful effects of all types of porn, explicit content that utilizes children and underage teens is particularly and especially harmful for a number of reasons.
Cases of trafficked children on OnlyFans
In some cases, the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) on OnlyFans is reportedly due to minors uploading their own self-produced content. In one case, a 17-year-old content creator who goes by “Hannah” was actively selling nudes on OnlyFans and making about $15-20K a month starting at age 16.
However, according to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), police and child protection agencies are also reportedly uncovering other cases where the content on the social media site is coming from children who are being actively trafficked or exploited on the platform by another person.
But how could this be? The site maintains that it is “…committed to the safety and security of its users, and its Terms of Service being upheld” and states that it uses “systems and software that are not only compliant but go over and above current regulations” in order to “report any adult material involving children.”
Related: Is Making An OnlyFans Worth It?
Even so, Staca Shehan, Vice President of the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children, has other thoughts on the efficacy of OnlyFans’ safety mechanisms. Shehan states, “In 2019, there were around a dozen children known to be missing being linked with content on OnlyFans. Last year the number of those cases nearly tripled.”
Additionally, police have received complaints from children who were blackmailed into posting explicit imagery, had others upload intimate images of them, or had their faces edited onto others’ naked bodies (i.e. “deepfake”) before being posted to OnlyFans.
How this is happening
In order to create content for OnlyFans, the site maintains that all creators must be 18+ to sign up and provide a government-issued ID as proof, but a number of loopholes exist that make getting around this pretty easy.
NCOSE reports that minors have allegedly been able to cheat the age verification systems by using fake IDs or IDs owned by older relatives. One example included a minor named Leah using a fake driving license to create an OnlyFans account and upload sexually explicit material.
When Leah’s age was anonymously reported to OnlyFans at a later date, the company reviewed the account, decided it “appeared legitimate” and reportedly took no further action. Moreover, Leah’s account was permitted to remain on the website even though OnlyFans claims to check other social media profiles as part of the account verification process—and Leah’s age was apparently listed on numerous other social media sites. The profile was only shut down allegedly after the BBC News contacted OnlyFans—which obviously occurred after CSAM from her account had been downloaded and uploaded in numerous other places across the web.
A BBC reporter also found it easy to cheat the age verification system on the site—they simply used a fake ID. Also, when the reporter used age detection software on the site, they found numerous profiles flagged as appearing to be around the age of 14.
Why this matters
OnlyFans claims to have robust age verification systems in place to prevent any form of CSAM from being uploaded to the site, but time and time again these systems have proven to be reportedly woefully inadequate.
NCOSE puts it well when they say, “OnlyFans is putting children at risk with their lack of sufficient age verification and their dangerous influence on culture… We must work collectively to prevent platforms like OnlyFans from further normalizing sexual exploitation and causing harm to women and children.”
Related: How Porn Can Fuel Sex Trafficking
The fact that porn—whether on OnlyFans or otherwise—so frequently normalizes and exacerbates the problem of sexual exploitation is all part of the proven harmful effect of porn. Refuse to click, and join us in our fight for real love and against exploitation.
To report an incident involving the possession, distribution, receipt, or production of child sexual abuse material, file a report on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s website at www.cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678.