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OnlyFans: Platform to ban sex videos after BBC investigation - Hi2Day!

OnlyFans: Platform to ban sex videos after BBC investigation

Internal documents, leaked to BBC News, reveal that OnlyFans allows moderators to give multiple warnings to accounts that post illegal content on its online platform before deciding to close them.

Described as a “compliance manual”, the documents also show that staff are asked to be more lenient towards successful accounts on the British content-sharing service.

Moderation specialists and child protection experts say this shows OnlyFans – which is best known for hosting pornography – has some “tolerance” for accounts posting illegal content.

OnlyFans says it goes far beyond “all relevant global safety standards and regulations” and does not tolerate breaches of its terms of service.

On Thursday evening, Only Fans said it would ban sexually explicit content on the site from October. The announcement comes after BBC News approached the company for its response to the leaked documents, and concerns about its handling of accounts posting illegal content.

OnlyFans said it would still allow creators to post nude photos and videos if they were in line with its terms of service, which are to be updated.

The site has more than 120 million subscribers, who pay a monthly fee and tips to “creators” for videos, photos and the ability to send personal messages to them. OnlyFans takes 20% of all payments.

In May, BBC News revealed the site was failing to prevent under-18s from selling and appearing in explicit videos, despite it being illegal for children to do so. At the time, OnlyFans said attempts to use the site fraudulently were “rare”.

Now, the leaked documents show accounts are not automatically shut down if they break the site’s terms of service.

Moderators have also told BBC news they have found prostitution services advertised, bestiality and material one moderator believed to be incest.

The BBC has seen examples of some of this banned content. In one video, a man is seen eating faeces. In another, a man pays homeless people to have sex with him on camera.

OnlyFans says it has now removed the videos and the documents are not manuals or “official guidance”. In a statement it says: “We do not tolerate any violation of our terms of service, and we take immediate action to uphold the safety and security of our users.”

Short presentational grey line

Moderators we spoke to have given a rare insight into how content on the site is checked.

Christof – not his real name – says on some days, he has viewed up to 2,000 photos and videos looking for content prohibited by the site. He uses lists of keywords to search within bios, posts and private messages between creators and their subscribers.

He says he has found illegal and extreme content in videos – including bestiality involving dogs and the use of spy cams, guns, knives and drugs. Some material is not actively searched for by moderators as frequently as he believes it should be, says Christof, despite being banned under the platform’s terms of service.

On multiple occasions, he says, OnlyFans told him he over-moderated, particularly in relation to videos showing sex in public and to “third-party” content – material featuring people not registered with OnlyFans.

OnlyFans says moderators are given specific briefs and if they routinely go beyond them they will be “directed to focus only on their assigned type of content”. Christof also says that despite being banned, the advertising of sex for sale is common among low earners on the site.

Christof, and a second person who has moderated content for the site, say some creators offer competitions to meet and have sex with a fan, as a way of increasing tip payments.

One of the documents we obtained detailing moderation guidelines in 2020, states that adverts for sex are an issue for the site. It says the “most popular places for escort promo” on the site are in creators’ usernames, bios, content descriptions and “tips menus” which advertise customised videos. The document says “examples” of this promotion include references to “PPM (pay per meet)”, “CashMeets”, “Book me”, “IRL Meet”, “scort” and others.

Despite this, BBC News was able to find more than 30 active accounts using those keywords in bios, profiles and posts, on one day.

One creator’s profile described them as an “[e]scort – sex partner”. A different account asked: “Anyone want to book me for a weekend?” Only two of the accounts we found had been removed 10 days later.

OnlyFans says it upholds its terms of service, uses both human and technological forms of moderation, and closes accounts where there is a serious contravention of its terms.

Illustration

But the documents show that although illegal content itself is removed, OnlyFans lets moderators give creators multiple warnings before closing accounts.

One, from February this year, reveals OnlyFans recommends three warnings are given to accounts when illegal content is discovered. It provides templates for each successive warning – explaining why material has been removed, and that failure to comply with terms of service may result in the closure of the account.

We obtained several differently-dated versions of the same 2021 document. All, except the oldest, state there should be at least five examples of “illegal” content on an account for it to be “escalated” immediately to management. Later versions from this summer include an apparently contradictory statement requiring immediate management referral for some examples of illegal content.

The document also gives moderators specific instructions for dealing with accounts – depending on how popular each one is. It says accounts with higher numbers of subscribers can be given additional warnings when rules are broken.

However, staff are told to moderate accounts with low user numbers “as we would and [restrict] when necessary”. With middle range accounts, they are told to warn, “but only restrict after the 3rd warning”. If one of the site’s most successful – and lucrative – creators breaks the rules, the account is dealt with by a different team.

“There is a discrimination between accounts,” says Christof. “It shows money is the priority.” The second moderator says that with violations of any kind, “You get a few warnings, you don’t just get the one warning and then you’re off.”

One expert in content moderation says the documents clearly show that OnlyFans has “some tolerance” for illegal material. “This suggests that they know the type of illegal content that their users are trying to upload enough to have templates for it,” says Dr Sarah Roberts, a co-director of the Center for Critical Internet Inquiry at UCLA in the US.

“Because [OnlyFans] have a certain amount of leniency, it also suggests that they are not willing to completely alienate their creators – even people who may do things illegally at worst, inappropriately at best – by immediately deplatforming them.”

Despite being described as a “compliance manual” in the header of each page of all versions of the 2021 document, OnlyFans says the documents are not manuals or “official guidance”. The first document – from 2020 – has edits attributed to Tom Stokely, the company’s chief operating officer.

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