OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely says banks were behind the online fundraising platform’s recent ban on sexually explicit content. Stokely spoke to the Financial Times today in an interview. He stated that the policy change was inevitable.
Stokely identified three banks that we could not provide service to due to “reputational risks” related onlyFans‘ UK-based sexual material. They were: Metro Bank, Bank of New York Mellon, and JPMorgan Chase. He claimed that BNY Mellon had specifically “flagged” all wire transactions involving OnlyFans and threatened its ability to pay creators.
Bloomberg reported last week that OnlyFans, a previously known platform for its sex workers’ safety net, had been pressured by “banking partners” and payment providers to ban the promotion of explicit material. The ban will affect anything that promotes, advertises, or refers “to” actual or simulated sexual activity, masturbation, or sex-related bodily fluids. Although it will allow nudity, OnlyFans creators were notified by email that zooming too close could violate the rules.
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The digital economy is plagued by payment processors such as Visa and MasterCard. They’ve recently clamped down on the use of their cards to pay for sexual content, ostensibly to cut off platforms that allow child sexual abuse material and nonconsensual pornography — although the crackdown follows pressure from organizations that broadly oppose sex work and pornography.
Stokely’s comments, however, single out banks as the main drivers of the ban. Stokely claims JPMorgan Chase is, for example, “particularly aggressive” in closing accounts of sex workers or businesses that support them. He also stated that Metro Bank had shut down OnlyFans’ version in 2019 on short notice. Stokely informed the Financial Times he would not disclose the current partners of the company’s banking.
OnlyFans is one of many web companies that have taken steps to limit or eliminate sexual content over the past few years, following Patreon, Tumblr, and eBay platforms. In addition to payment-related pressures, companies serving sex workers face heightened legal risk after the 2018 passage of FOSTA-SESTA, and Apple and Google’s app stores restrict sexually explicit material. Axios reported on the day of OnlyFans’ sex-trafficking crackdown that OnlyFans struggled to raise investors’ capital. They cited its “porn issue” as one reason. However, sex workers played a vital role in the service’s growth. Despite its use by music and film stars, its future is uncertain without them.