OnlyFans CEO explains why the site banned porn

In this photo illustration, the OnlyFans logo is displayed on a smartphone.

Sheldon Cooper | SOPA pictures | LightRocket via Getty Images

OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely says the online subscription platform has “no choice” but to ban pornography after being treated “unfairly” by banks.

Last week, OnlyFans said it would no longer allow “sexually explicit” content on its service as of October 1 to meet the needs of its banking and payment providers. It is not yet clear how OnlyFans defines such content. The company said it will continue to allow certain spots that contain nudity.

In an interview with the Financial Times published Tuesday, Stokely provided further explanations for the company’s decision to ban porn, saying lenders often “cite reputational risk and reject our business.”

“When it came to changing policy, we had no choice – the short answer is banks,” Stokely told the FT.

Stokely dropped a number of banks, including the Bank of New York Mellon, Metro Bank, and JPMorgan. He said BNY Mellon “flagged and declined” every transfer related to the company, while UK Metro Bank closed OnlyFans’ corporate account on short notice in 2019.

Regarding JPMorgan, Stokely claims the US banking giant has been “particularly aggressive in closing accounts of sex workers or … any business that supports sex workers”.

BNY Mellon, Metro Bank and JPMorgan declined to comment.

Founded in 2016 and based in London, OnlyFans gained popularity by allowing adult performers to charge their fans a subscription fee to view videos and pictures of “Not Safe for Work”. The company, which claims to have 130 million users and 2 million content creators, boomed in the coronavirus pandemic when bans stifled large porn productions.

Some have speculated that there may be other factors behind OnlyFans’ porn ban. For one, the company is reportedly struggling to attract outside investment, according to Axios.

“We didn’t make this policy change to make it easier to find investors,” Stokely told the FT. He said OnlyFans would “absolutely” welcome porn back to the platform if the banking environment changed.

Meanwhile, credit card networks like Mastercard have been cracking down on porn lately. Last year, Mastercard and Visa cut ties with Pornhub after allegations on the porn site showed videos of underage sex and revenge porn. Pornhub denied allowing child sexual abuse material but tightened its policies to ban uploads from unverified users.

Mastercard will introduce stricter rules for adult merchants, due to go into effect October 1st, the same day OnlyFans will impose its sexual content ban. However, Stokely said the company was “already fully compliant with the new Mastercard rules so that had no bearing on the decision.”

Mastercard was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

OnlyFans, majority-owned by Ukrainian-American porn entrepreneur Leonid Radvinsky, was reportedly looking for a round of funding that Bloomberg said would be worth more than $ 1 billion.

OnlyFans has tried to change its image to become more than just a platform for sex workers. Celebrities like Cardi B and Bella Thorne, for example, joined the platform last year. OnlyFans is also used by fitness enthusiasts and musicians. But porn remains the most popular category on the site.

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