OnlyFans content creators are the latest victims of financial censorship
OnlyFans recently announced that it ban sexually explicit content, citing pressure from “banking partners and payment providers”. This is the latest example of a disturbing trend of financial intermediaries censoring constitutionally protected legal discourse by closing accounts or threatening to do so.
OnlyFans is a subscription site that allows artists, performers and other content creators to monetize their creative works. essential platform for independent creators of adult content. The ban on sexually explicit content has sparked an uproar from many creators who have used the platform to safely earn income in the adult industry.
This is just the latest example of censorship by financial intermediaries. Intermediaries cut off access to financial services to independent booksellers, social networks, adult video sites, and whistleblower sitesregardless of whether the targeted individuals traded in First Amendment protected speech. By cutting off these essential services, financial intermediaries are forcing companies to adhere to their moral and political standards.
It’s no surprise that when faced with the choice of losing access to financial services or banning explicit content, OnlyFans prefers its payment processors over its users. For many businesses, loss of access to financial services seriously disrupts operations and can have existential consequences.
As the EFF has Explain, access to the financial system is a necessary precondition for the operations of almost all Internet intermediaries, including content hosts and platforms. The structure of the electronic payment economy makes these payment systems a natural bottleneck for online content control. Indeed, in one case, a federal appeals court compared shutting down a company’s financial services to “killing a person by cutting off their oxygen supply.” In that case, Backpage.com, LLC vs. Dart, the Seventh Circuit found that a sheriff violated the First Amendment by strongly encouraging payment processors to cut financial services from a classifieds website.
There has been some movement in Washington to fight financial censorship. Earlier this year, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency finalized its rule of equitable access to financial services, which would have prevented banks from refusing to serve entire categories of customers whom they find politically or morally unsavory. But the rule was suspended with the change of administration in January.
Content moderation is a complex subject and the EFF has writing on the implications of censorship by companies closer to the bottom of the technical stack. But content creators shouldn’t lose their financial lifeline based on the whims and moral standards of a few dominant and irresponsible financial institutions.