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The Walls Slowly Close In On PornHub, But It's OnlyFans Who Should Be Nervous

In Serena Fleitus v. MindGeek, (MindGeek), Fleitus alleges that MindGeek, the parent company of Pornhub, knowingly posted a video of her that was taken when she was only thirteen years old. Visa is one of the named parties in the suit, because Visa continued its payment processing on Pornhub despite their knowledge of MindGeek’s participation in the distribution of child pornography. On July 29, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney issued a scathing ruling, denying Visas motion to dismiss its portion of the lawsuit. The criminal activity that is the subject of this ongoing case is the very same criminal activity taking place on OnlyFans. In light of a damning new report, an analogous suit against OnlyFans and the payment processing companies which do business on the platform is inevitable.

OnlyFans is a platform which fuses social media and pornography into a single user interface, complete with Android, IOS and Web App. OnlyFans was born off the back of increasing interest for celebrity nude photos and the vast majority of early adopters were women or girls in showbusiness or pornography who wanted to generate a side hussle. It’s worthwhile mentioning that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of OnlyFans, jumping from tens of thousands of users to over a million users in just a few months. OnlyFans wishes to present itself as simply providing a service for “content creators” ( that could be someone producing content as mild as a topless cooking show, to content which depicts sado-masochistic choking and rape ) and “fans'. Their DM feature means that porn consumers can connect with women and pay for additional photos/videos or special requests. There have been numerous women who have been murdered by onlyfans “fans”, and even more who have been exploited on the site.

In 2021 the BBC released a damning segment on OnlyFans which sparked the public's interest in this Gen Z and Millennial Tech Platform, saying that OnlyFans was slow to move on content which was suspected to be underage or exploitative. In typical pornographer fashion, OnlyFans appeared to simply wash their hands of responsibility for the many cases of child content which appears on their site, and claims they provide checks and balances to ensure that illegal content is removed- a laughable idea when you consider that they are relying on pornography users to report illegal content. OnlyFans operates on a model similar to other platforms like Patreon where fans can pay one time or subscriptions to the creators they follow and OnlyFans takes 20% of the money exchanged as a fee. If OnlyFans did not facilitate the exchange of exploitative or illegal content then they would simply be enriching the market which Patreon and Fiverr have created, but when we consider the proven cases of prostitution and pedophilia traffic which go through the site then OnlyFans are at best pimps, or at worst complicit in a criminal conspiracy. This is not hyperbole.

In April of 2022 the Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative (ATII) in Consultation with Veteran Law Enforcement Officials released a report called, “Expert Analysis of Open Source Material relating to Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) and Sex Trafficking occurring on” The results of the report reveal a glaring and obvious dereliction of duty by both OnlyFans and the trust and safety teams at the companies doing business with the platform.

The ATII analysis primarily utilized common search engines, like Google, to conduct a series of searches of websites known to law enforcement to feature substantial amounts of sex trafficking content and then analyzed their linkages to the OnlyFans platform. Within 90 minutes of investigation with these common techniques, ATII investigators found a high volume of commonly understood indicators of CSAM and sex trafficking. The analysts concluded that there are not effective measures in place to verify age and consent by OnlyFans or the trust and safety teams obligated to do so at the companies doing business with the platform. The analysts further concluded that OnlyFans is not just a passive hub for sexually explicit images and videos, but is actively utilized by sex traffickers and other criminals to monetize large scale, in person criminal sexual encounters.

The second arm of the analysis utilized specialized subscription darknet tools and investigative techniques consistent with those used by law enforcement and concluded that there are troubling connections between OnlyFans profiles and the darkweb utilized by sex predators. For example, a search of “OnlyFans” and “pedo” produced over 54,000 results on the dark web, and within those results investigators found references to children being sold for in person sexual encounters.

This supplementary example regarding the darkweb demonstrates the prevalence of links to CSAM and trafficking on OnlyFans as sourced through the darknet. In other words, sex predators utilizing the darkweb for in person sexual encounters with children may find themselves on OnlyFans to get what they’re looking for.

The report contains exhibits that represent a select sample of their findings. Within each exhibit, the team articulates and identifies indicators of likely criminal sexual activity and the prevalence of the indicators within each exhibit. As indicators add up, the probability of criminality increases.

Each indicator is universally known to be related to the specified criminal activity and were vetted by law enforcement. Indicators include, but are not limited to, the following: poor lighting, low quality videos and images, dingy rooms, stockpiles of goods, strange tattoos, signs of abuse, lack of boundaries, available 24/7, among others. Based upon the content analysis regarding the prevalence of universal indicators of CSAM and trafficking, the analysts concluded it is highly likely that OnlyFans is facilitating sex crimes against innocent women, children, teens and those crimes are being accessed through US financial institutions doing business on the OnlyFans platform.

There are parallels between MindGeek’s current lawsuit and the inevitable one against OnlyFans, but the biggest distinguishing factor happens to be the most damning for OnlyFans – the paywall. While Visa’s processing of payments for third party advertising on MindGeek’s sister company Pornhub facilitated the completion of the crime of distributing child pornography, the connection between payment and criminal activity is even more direct in the inevitable case against OnlyFans.

When a user on OnlyFans desires to voyeuristically participate in the sexual abuse and exploitation of a woman or child, he must first face the pay wall. That pay wall has several functions, and ATII’s analysis demonstrates that one of those functions is to frustrate law enforcement’s capacity to conduct a thorough investigations into suspected cases of child sexual abuse and/or trafficking. The Paywall makes a thorough investigation cost prohibitive for law enforcement budgets, which thereby allows pimps and traffickers to deftly conceal their crimes.

The paywall also happens to be great for OnlyFans’ business model – it’s the democratized hustler economy with small, independent creators, so clean, polished, and beautiful as its ambassadors. According to Kelly Blair, Chief Strategy Operations Officer at OnlyFans, OnlyFans has processed over $8 billion in terms of payments to creators. How many such payments lined the pockets of pimps and traffickers? How many such payments funded criminal sexual abuse of minors and sex trafficking? When victims inevitably sue OnlyFans and the financial institutions that provide the brick and mortar for the paywall, all of those questions will find their answers.

If you were to ask Lee Taylor, OnlyFans’ slick, young, good looking, and hip CFO, he might say the paywall functions in the service of a legitimate creator economy – it is good for the content creators on OnlyFans for their high art creations to be protected by this pay wall. Lee Taylor describes these individuals as “operating legitimate businesses” and says, “People are making a legitimate living through legal content on the site, so who are we to draw a line as to what is acceptable and what’s not?”

Well, there is an obvious answer to that question, Lee. The law is here to draw the line as to what is acceptable and what is not. And the law will do so on behalf of the women and children who are being criminally sexually exploited on your site; the women and children who are voiceless, because they are trafficked, used, and abused. And the line doesn’t bisect the prudish from the controversial; the moral and the immoral. This line we wish to draw, Lee, and which U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney drew in his scathing decision, separates the legal from the criminal.

"the Court can comfortably infer that Visa intended to help MindGeek monetize child porn from the very fact that Visa continued to provide MindGeek the means to do so and knew MindGeek was indeed doing so.... Put yet another way, Visa is not alleged to have simply created an incentive to commit a crime, it is alleged to have knowingly provided the tool used to complete a crime".

Lee Taylor is on the nose about one thing when he says, “We want financial institutions to look past the perception and come and look at what we do and how we do it.” It is time for financial institutions to look past the perception – the smoke and mirrors of every Denise Richards, the smokescreens, phantoms, liars, sirens, and gorgons, and really look at what OnlyFans does and how they do it. If they do, they’ll see that their payment processing services are being used to facilitate and fund criminal sexual abuse of minors and sex trafficking. The writing is on the wall. A linchpin in the MindGeek case is Visa’s awareness of the criminal activities taking place on pornhub. Judge Carney writes, “Visa made the decision to continue to recognize MindGeek as a merchant, despite its alleged knowledge that MindGeek monetized child porn.”

It’s truly breathtaking that VISA, which requires all of its merchants to undergo rigorous KYC ( know your customer ) and endure thorough anti money laundering investigations before onboarding, would embrace OnlyFans as merchants. Surely OnlyFans would not only be high-risk merchants, but would nearly be untouchable? It appears that VISA has learned less than nothing after being implicated in the ground breaking case against pornhub.

How much longer will financial institutions be able to claim ignorance of the criminal activities broadcast for a fee on OnlyFans before their victims sue them as well, especially in light of the damning AATI analysis?

The clock is clearly ticking on onlyfans’s ability to operate their brazen exploitative platform without question- but we don’t have to wait for VISA to pull the plug on their own, we can start to fight back today. If you are a lawyer who is interested in taking on a case- get in touch. If you or anyone you know was the victim of exploitation on onlyfans- get in touch. It’s time we turned the spotlight off the girls and turned it back onto OnlyFans.

This article was written by Alix Aharon and Katie DiPrinzio.

Katie DiPrinzio is a 2nd year law student in Pennsylvania, who aspires to reduce harms to women and children through both fierce legal advocacy and principled legislative policy.

Alix Aharon, founder of the GenderMapping Project is committed to highlighting the facts about Pornography, Prostitution and the Global Gender Industry.

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