OnlyFans CEO explains why the site banned po/rn: ‘The short answer is banks’

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Tim Stokely, founder and CEO of OnlyFans, says the online subscription platform had “no choice” but to ban pornography after “unfair” treatment by banks.

Last week, OnlyFans said it would no longer allow “sexually explicit” content on its service from October 1 to fulfill requests from its banking and payment providers. It is not yet clear how OnlyFans defines such content. The company said it would continue to allow certain nudity posts.

In an interview with the Financial Times published Tuesday, Stokely further explained the company’s decision to ban porn, saying lenders often referred to “reputation risks and would refuse our business”.

“The policy change left us with no choice – the short answer is banks,” Stokely told the FT.

Stokely has named a few banks, including Bank of New York Mellon, Metro Bank and JPMorgan. He said BNY Mellon has “flagged and rejected” any transfer linked to the company, while Britain’s Metro Bank closed OnlyFans’ business account at short notice in 2019.

As for JPMorgan, Stokely claims the US banking giant was “particularly aggressive in closing accounts of sex workers or…any company that supports sex workers”.

BNY Mellon, Metro Bank and JPMorgan declined to comment.

Founded in 2016, London-based OnlyFans gained popularity by allowing adult artists to charge their fans a subscription fee to watch ‘not safe for work’ videos and images. The company, which claims to have 130 million users and 2 million content creators, boomed during the coronavirus pandemic as lockdowns choked major porn productions.

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

“We have not made this policy change to make it easier to find investors,” Stokely told the FT. He said OnlyFans would “definitely” welcome porn 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 severed ties with Pornhub over allegations that the porn site showed videos featuring underage sex and revenge porn. Pornhub denied allowing child sexual abuse material, but tightened its policy to ban uploads from unauthenticated users.

Mastercard will introduce stricter rules for adult sellers, which will come into effect on October 1, the same day OnlyFans imposes the ban on sexual content. However, Stokely said the company was “already fully compliant with the new Mastercard rules, so that didn’t influence the decision.”

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

OnlyFans, which is majority-owned by Ukrainian-American porn entrepreneur Leonid Radvinsky, was reportedly seeking funding that would value the company at more than $1 billion, Bloomberg reported.

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

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