OnlyFans

Subscription-only content service

  • Video hosting service
  • Creator economy
  • Pornography
GenreVideo on demandFounded2016; 8 years ago (2016) in London, United KingdomFounderTim StokelyHeadquarters
London, England
,
United Kingdom
Area served
Global
Key people
Keily Blair (CEO)ServicesOFTVRevenueUS$932 million[1] (2021)OwnerFenix International Limited
Number of employees
~1,000[2] (2022)Websiteonlyfans.com/about

OnlyFans is an internet content subscription service based in London, United Kingdom.[3] The service is used primarily by sex workers who produce pornography,[3][4] but it also hosts the work of other content creators, such as physical fitness experts and musicians.[5]

Content on the platform is user-generated and monetized via monthly subscriptions, tips, and pay-per-view. Creators are paid 80% of these fees. The company launched a free safe-for-work streaming platform, OFTV, in 2021. The website grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic; as of May 2023, OnlyFans had more than three million registered creators and 220 million registered users.

The company has been criticized for insufficiently preventing child sexual abuse material from circulating on the platform, though statistical evidence on the severity of the problem is mixed. In August 2021, a campaign to investigate OnlyFans began in the United States Congress, and it was reported that from October 2021 onward OnlyFans would no longer allow sexually explicit material,[4] due to pressure from banks that OnlyFans used for user payments. However, this decision was reversed six days later due to backlash from users and creators alike.[6][7][8]

Company overview

OnlyFans is a British subscription-based video on demand service and social media network.[9] It acts as a video hosting service, allowing content creators to upload videos and garner subscribers to their content.[10] As such, it is part of the creator economy.[11] Subscribers pay creators in monthly instalments, in one-time tips, or via pay-per-view. The company takes 20% of these fees.[10][12]

OnlyFans is mainly used by pornographic creators,[3][4][13] both amateur and professional, but it also has a market with other content creators—including chefs, fitness trainers, and musicians.[5]

As of May 2023, OnlyFans had 3 million registered creators and 220 million registered consumers.[14][15] Research from the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that the typical user of OnlyFans is white (68.9%), married (89.5%), male (63.1%) and heterosexual (59%).[16] The study found that the sexual attitudes of OnlyFans users were not significantly different from the general population.[17]

The company employs approximately 1,000 people, 80% of whom focus on content moderation and support.[18][2] It had 2021 revenues of US$932 million.[1] It is led by chief executive officer (CEO) Keily Blair and owned by Fenix International Limited.[19][20]

In April 2021, Time named OnlyFans in its Time 100 Most Influential Companies list.[21] Additionally, Fast Company named OnlyFans as one of the 10 most innovative social media companies in 2021.[22] The Financial Times named OnlyFans one of the fastest-growing companies in Europe in 2022 and 2023.[23]

History

Key figures

Tim Stokely ran the softcore pornography website GlamGirls before founding Customs4U, a website where customers could request custom videos from pornographic models. In November 2016, he founded OnlyFans as a platform for performers to monetise their content and interactions directly.[12] Stokely founded the company with a £10,000 loan from his father, Guy Stokely, who told him, "Tim, this is going to be the last one."[24][25] Tim's brother Thomas Stokely became the company's chief operating officer and Guy Stokely became head of finance for OnlyFans.[24][25]

Two years later, the businessman Leonid Radvinsky, owner of MyFreeCams,[26] acquired 75% ownership of Fenix International Limited and became one of its directors.[27][28] After this, OnlyFans became increasingly focused on not safe for work (NSFW) content and "gained a pop culture reputation for being a hive of pornography", according to The Independent.[29]

In December 2021, Tim Stokely announced that he would be stepping down and that Amrapali Gan would be taking over from him.[30] Keily Blair was appointed CEO in July 2023.[31]

Growth in 2020

Amateur and professional sex workers drove OnlyFans' early growth, a process further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it caused.[32] Between March and April in 2020, the user and creator base grew by 75%.[33]

The site grew rapidly after it was mentioned by Beyoncé in the remix of the Megan Thee Stallion song, "Savage", released in April 2020.[34] Traffic increased by 15% and CEO Tim Stokely claimed OnlyFans was seeing approximately 200,000 new users and 6,000–8,000 new creators register daily.[19][33] 2020 also saw numerous celebrities, including Cardi B, Rebecca Minkoff, and Tyler Posey, as well as media companies like Munchies and Barstool Sports join the platform, which further boosted interest in the site.[33][35] By December 2020, OnlyFans had 85 million users and more than 1 million creators, generating more than US$2 billion in sales that year.[36]

Sky News reported that OnlyFans had not paid value-added tax for three years and could face heavy penalties from tax authorities; it began charging value-added tax in July 2020 after conversations with HM Revenue and Customs.[37]

By March 2021, OnlyFans' user base topped 120 million and creators collectively earned $3 billion in revenue.[33] OnlyFans stated that it pays out more than $200 million a month to creators.[38][39] In 2021, they reached a company valuation of $1 billion.[40] Their revenue was around $900 million for 2021, a rise from $350 million in the previous year. Owner Leonid Radvinsky received $500 million in dividends in a roughly two-year period from 2021 to 2022.[41][42]

Restrictions on pornographic creators

Shortly following increased campaigning against OnlyFans due to concerns about child sexual abuse material, on 19 August 2021, the company announced that from 1 October 2021 onwards it would not be allowing sexually explicit content.[43] The company pushed the update through a new Terms of Service Policy.[8] The company would still have allowed nudity on some grounds.[44]

The reason for this shift was initially reported as pressure from credit card companies including Mastercard, but CEO Tim Stokely later told Financial Times that it was due to withdrawn support from banks such as BNY Mellon and JPMorgan Chase, and that Mastercard had "no bearing on the decision".[8][45][46] Stokely said that BNY Mellon had "flagged and rejected" each transaction from the company, and that Metro Bank had withdrawn support abruptly in 2019.[46]

The decision was met with widespread backlash by creators and consumers of OnlyFans. Six days after the initial announcement, OnlyFans said that it would be reversing the decision and that adult content would be allowed on the site indefinitely, citing that they had "secured assurances necessary" to do so.[6][7][47][48][49][50]

The website Fansly surged in popularity as an alternative to OnlyFans for sex workers after the retracted ban announcement. Originally beginning operations in November 2020, Fansly's website design and functionality has been regarded by MEL Magazine as "nearly identical" to OnlyFans.[51]

In August 2022, a series of lawsuits were filed which alleged that OnlyFans had bribed employees of Meta to add Instagram accounts of OnlyFans creators who also sold content on OnlyFans' competitor websites to a terrorist blacklist. According to the lawsuits, adult performers including Alana Evans had traffic driven away from their Instagram accounts after being falsely tagged as terror-related, effectively shadow banning them and diminishing their ability to promote their content on rival websites. OnlyFans denied awareness of such activity.[52][53] The plaintiffs withdrew the bribery claim in July 2023 and the case was dismissed in August 2023, with the court noting that it did not have jurisdiction over OnlyFans.[54]

Content creators from Russia and Belarus reported that they were not able to withdraw their funds or were excluded from the platform as part of the economic sanctions following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. OnlyFans said that this was because "worldwide financial restrictions" led them to have "very limited methods to pay Creator accounts linked to Russia and Belarus". OnlyFans later said that they had restored full functionality to these accounts.[55][56] On 21 April 2022, OnlyFans "temporarily paused" Russian creators' accounts.[57]

Safety and security

Child sexual abuse material

Since 2019, OnlyFans's account verification process has involved a selfie headshot including an ID photo.[58] However, BBC News reported in 2021 that it was able to circumvent the system. OnlyFans was criticised by UK police for not doing enough to protect children;[59] however, the country's government regulator, Ofcom, praised the site in 2022 for its use of third-party verification tools.[60]

A BBC Three documentary alleged in 2020 that a third of Twitter profiles globally advertising 'nudes4sale' (or similar) belong to underage individuals, many of whom used OnlyFans to share their content.[61][58] In May 2021, the BBC reported that OnlyFans was "failing to prevent underage users from selling and appearing in explicit videos" after an investigation. This included reports from UK Police, schools and Childline.[59] However, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reported under 100 instances of child sexual abuse material on OnlyFans per year, while MindGeek-owned companies accounted for around 13,000 cases, Twitter accounted for 65,000 and Facebook accounted for 20 million instances.[62][43]

On 10 August 2021, US Representative Ann Wagner announced a bipartisan coalition pressuring the Department of Justice to investigate OnlyFans for child exploitation, citing increasing reports by law enforcement and child safety organizations that minors were being sold on OnlyFans, as well as instances of sex trafficking and image-based abuse.[62][63] Over 100 members of Congress signed the petition.[62] The Christian pressure group Exodus Cry and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, founded as a Catholic organization, were cited as influencers in the campaign against the website.[43][64][65]

Later in August 2021, OnlyFans released its first transparency report regarding the company's safety compliance program. OnlyFans said that it uses machine learning classifiers to locate child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and hashes to keep track of CSAM content, passing such information on to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). However, in July 2021 it only passed one hash and details of 14 accounts, out of the 15 suspended for CSAM, onto the NCMEC. Gizmodo and The Verge commented on the unclarity of the reports' figures, which are limited to July 2021 and combine requests for data from law enforcement and from charity helplines.[66][67]

The company gave $500,000 to the Child Rescue Coalition in 2022 for a project intended to investigate adult online behavior that is sexually threatening to children.[68] It partnered with StopNCII.org in 2023, an online tool that uses a hash function system to prevent the spread of revenge porn and other non-consensual image sharing.[69]

Data security

In February 2020, BuzzFeed News reported that up to four terabytes of hacked OnlyFans content went viral on social media. It was supposed to have come from hundreds of different accounts and was spread on Mega cloud storage and Google Drive. Daly Barnett, a technologist from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BuzzFeed News that "These platforms routinely have terrible security posture and reprehensible incident response." OnlyFans denied that any breach had occurred.[70][71]

In August 2020, Forensic News reported that some content creators' accounts had been deleted without warning, leaving them unable to withdraw their balances.[72] Radvinsky's previous business ventures were flagged by banks for indicators of money laundering.[73][74]

Non-pornographic content

In March 2021, the company launched its creative fund to provide £20,000 grants to four emerging musicians in the United Kingdom, as selected by Stokely and Stefflon Don.[75] Later that year, OnlyFans soft launched OFTV, an app and streaming site with a collection of its safe for work content.[33] Professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., DJ Khaled and Fat Joe, and Terrell Owens were among the new content creators during the year.[40][76][77]

A second initiative, the following year, was the OFTV program Creative Fund: Fashion Edition, a reality fashion show featuring designer Rebecca Minkoff. It was judged by Law Roach, Sir John, and Maeve Reilly; the winner received $50,000, and $25,000 was awarded to second and third place.[78][2] A four-part Comedy Edition of the program in the U.K. and Ireland is set to air in 2023, with a similar prize fund. It was judged by London Hughes, Jamali Maddix and Mae Martin; Jack Guinness hosted and Sofie Hagen appeared.[79]

In 2022, OFTV released Model Farmers, a reality television show hosted by Becky Houze. The show features celebrities working on a farm in the United Kingdom.[80] In 2022, OnlyFans signed deals with the Sims family, who starred in the English reality television show The Only Way is Essex, and Whitney Cummings to star in shows for OFTV, set to release in 2023. Cummings also started an account on OnlyFans' main site.[81][82]

Individual creators

A trend on OnlyFans saw creators allowing free access to sexual content in exchange for proof of charity donations, beginning with Kaylen Ward raising US$1 million in contributions to charity during the Australian wild bushfires in Australia in January 2020.[83][84]

Bella Thorne broke OnlyFans earnings records when she joined the platform in August 2020, generating US$2 million in a week, including US$1 million in a 24-hour period.[85] Thorne promised subscribers nude photos, but instead provided only photos in lingerie, leading to a large number of chargebacks. Following the chargebacks, OnlyFans limited the amount creators could charge and how quickly creators could receive their payouts, though the company said it was unrelated to Thorne and part of "an evolving process".[86][87] Sex work advocates called Thorne a "tourist" in the sex work industry and blamed her for the policy change, saying it would cause them to lose a portion of their income.[88][89] Thorne's record was broken in April 2021 by Bhad Bhabie, who garnered US$1 million in six hours.[90] The broken record led to social media criticism of Bhabie's subscribers, as her OnlyFans account launched shortly after she turned 18.[91]

In May 2022, Carmen Electra joined the site, debuting her account with photos from her 50th birthday.[92] The same year, Pennsylvania congressional candidate Alexandra Hunt joined the platform and announced that her campaign had raised around $100,000 in one month.[93]

In September 2022, the Twitch streamer Amouranth told Insider that she was earning $1.5 million every month on the site and had grossed more than $33 million in total since joining in early 2020.[94] On December 9, 2022, YouTuber Markiplier launched an OnlyFans account page and the influx of traffic caused the site to crash.[95][96][97]

See also

  • iconInternet portal
  • Companies portal
  • iconErotica and pornography portal

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External links

  • Official website