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Valery Lopez is seen in a cellphone screen as she poses for pictures with photographer Michael Davis (R) during a photoshoot to make content for her OnlyFans profile in Caracas, Venezuela on December 1, 2020. (Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty Images)

After Backlash, OnlyFans Suspends Plan to Ban Sexually Explicit Content

"This is welcome news, but sex workers' livelihoods shouldn't depend on the whims of individual platforms," said the ACLU as others warned the company could still reverse course.

Jessica Corbett

Sex workers, online influencers, and digital rights advocates cautiously celebrated on Wednesday after the subscription website OnlyFans announced it was suspending widely criticized plans to ban sexually explicit content from the platform.

"Organizing works and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise."
—Evan Greer, Fight for the Future

OnlyFans announced last week that its new policy would take effect October 1, sparking swift, sweeping backlash. The London-based company's founder, Tim Stokely, blamed the now-suspended changes on banks.

The suspension announcement came in a pair of tweets.

"Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard. We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators," the company said. "An official communication to creators will be emailed shortly."

Responding to the move, Evan Greer, director of the digital advocacy group Fight for the Future, said that "organizing works and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise."

The U.K.-based group United Sex Workers declared, "Never underestimate the power of community, together we demanded our voices were heard."

However, "'suspended' is not canceled, and Onlyfans is not to be trusted," the group added. "Now more than ever, it is time we come together and fight for our rights at work."

While some content creators and advocates also warned that a suspension isn't necessarily a permanent reversal, "so let's not pop the champagne just yet," others put the policy flip-flopping by OnlyFans into a broader context of the problems sex workers face on the job.

Eva Galperin, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's director of cybersecurity, tweeted: "Does this highlight how precarious things are for sex workers on the internet? Absolutely. But it is also evidence that collective action works."

The ACLU said that "this is welcome news, but sex workers' livelihoods shouldn't depend on the whims of individual platforms," and called on financial services companies to "end their unsafe and incriminating practices and ensure equitable access."

The back and forth has left some content creators wanting permanent protections.

"I feel like the right to work has been given back to me even after it was kind of teased to be taken away from me," a creator who goes by the name of Maya Morena and joined OnlyFans about four years ago told CNN Business. "The feeling is just bizarre."

According to the outlet:

Morena previously told CNN Business she was able to transition away from doing full-service sex work—meeting clients in person—and rely on her earnings from OnlyFans to support her. She said she planned to eventually leave the industry but didn't intend to this soon, noting that she's enrolled in college and has rent to pay.

"I've lost so many platforms that I just didn't think we would win," she said. Morena previously used services such as Backpage.com, the classified ads website that was shut down in 2018; Craigslist, which shut down its personals section that same year; and Tumblr, which banned pornography at the end of that year.

"I would like something more permanent in the future, a guarantee that I can't be put at risk to have my rights taken from me," she said.

Though CNN Business reached out to OnlyFans to ask if the suspension is permanent, the company simply responded with a short statement given to multiple media outlets: "The proposed October 1, 2021 changes are no longer required due to banking partners' assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators."

Lacy Lennon, who told the Associated Press that she makes tens of thousands of dollars a month from OnlyFans by charging $100 per minute for custom videos, also remains skeptical.

"What's scary is what's the safety on this?" she said. "How do we know it won't happen again?"

As the Financial Times reports:

The sudden U-turn came after Stokely on Tuesday told the Financial Times that the ban on porn had come in response to increased resistance from banks, which would "cite reputational risk and refuse our business."

OnlyFans executives reversed course on Wednesday morning, one person close to the company said, after Stokely's comments prompted "larger financial institutions" to come to the table "and they are now willing to talk."

Stokely had told the FT he would "absolutely" backpedal on the ban were the banking environment to change, which has happened "much faster than anticipated" owing to the "wider pressure and criticism" of banks, the person added.

Content creator Alex Tikas told the New York Times that he was set to leave OnlyFans after last week's announcement, but now he plans to stay on the platform while also keeping accounts on three other sites.

"If you don't want us and you don't want our money," he said, "I guarantee there are places for us to distribute our content."


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