After a week of chaos shrouded in messy and mixed messaging, OnlyFans has announced on Twitter that it has paused the plan to ban sexually explicit content. Or, “suspended the planned October 1 policy change,” an implicit reference to the ban that’s sent creators reeling into the time-consuming and expensive prospect of rebuilding from scratch.
The announcement was presumed to be linked to credit card companies’ increasing chokehold over adult content creators and their host platforms—specifically, Mastercard, which is tightening its policies in mid-October, forcing more rigorous id verification policies for any platform hosting adult content. OnlyFans already has such a system, but credit card companies’ overnight exodus from PornHub loomed.
Yesterday, OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely told the Financial Times that the decision had nothing to do with credit card companies, but banks such as Bank of New York Mellon, which has “flagged and rejected” all wires to the platform. Stokely said that UK’s Metro Bank closed the site’s corporate account due to its user base and that JP Morgan is “particularly aggressive.”
That’s only a taste of the banking discrimination that sex workers face every day, and it’s unsurprising. For years, JP Morgan Chase has shut down sex workers’ personal bank accounts as have payment processors like Square Cash, Venmo, and PayPal, based on arbitrary morality clauses subject to change at their whims. Stokely—who built an empire on those workers, putting him in a unique position to leverage power to protect them—told the Financial Times that OnlyFans “had no choice.”
When asked by Gizmodo, an OnlyFans spokesperson did not specify how long the suspension would be in place. But in a statement, the company said that banks have changed their tune: “The proposed October 1, 2021 changes are no longer required due to banking partners’ assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators.”
“As a registered self-employed taxpayer, I feel that sex workers are one of the most silenced and overlooked working groups in society,” Charlotte Edwards, creator of the campaign SW Financial Rights UK told Gizmodo in an email last week. “Many sex workers have no choice but to obtain such loans/mortgages/business bank accounts under fraudulent pretenses, in terms of transparency relating to their line of work. This is forced criminal activity, these individuals could be prosecuted. Is that fair?” Edwards was recently denied a pandemic loan from Santander based on the “nature” of her work.
Edwards sent Gizmodo a letter from a number of UK-based advocacy groups addressed to financial institutions. It cites the effects of flagrant discrimination: “limited access to housing and essentials, evictions, difficulties paying business overheads, damage to credit and great personal risks.” They ask that institutions restore members’ bank accounts and institute anti-discrimination policies.
OnlyFans said that it plans to email creators soon.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.