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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Last week's decision by OnlyFans to ban "sexually explicit" content not only raised questions about the platform's future, but also sparked panic among the sex workers who made it so popular in the first place.

Why it matters: OnlyFans has been a safe space for sex workers, allowing them to make a living without in-person interactions.

What they're saying: "This is something the anti-porn and anti-trafficking organizations have been pushing for, but I think it's going to create more trafficking situations," says Alana Evans, a veteran adult movie actress and president of the Adult Performers Actors Guild.

  • "I have models telling me they think they have no choice but to move into full-service sex work."

Creator view: Erin Ashford is a top OnlyFans model, amassing thousands of paying subscribers since first joining the site two years ago. She calls the decision "Earth-shattering."

  • Ashford had been a student and working various jobs in Arizona, and began posting adult content to platforms like Snapchat and Twitter. Some of it went viral, and she began treating her hobby more like a business. Joining OnnlyFans enabled her to pursue a "100% sustainable life" in Costa Rica, where she's built a home, a greenhouse, planted over 500 trees and has livestock.
  • "I’m not the only one who will be affected by a change in my income. There are six families depending on the paycheck I give them every other week," she said. "It seems so easy for OnlyFans to turn their back on me and other adult content creators with such little thought as to the thousands of families that will be affected by this."

Backstory: OnlyFans said it imposed the ban at the request of its "banking and payout partners," but declined to answer further questions.

  • Some believe the move was spurred by MasterCard's new rules on adult content, although Alana Evans says OnlyFans could have continued allowing sexually explicit content without falling afoul of the credit card giant.
  • "I've met with MasterCard and they told us that their only intention was to remove illegal adult content," she says. "OnlyFans just had to do the tech work to comply, like other sites have done."
  • Many sex workers initially refused to believe media reports about the change, because OnlyFans didn't post the statement on its website, and OnlyFans customer service replied to creator inquiries by saying "not to believe untrustworthy sources of information." The company formally informed creators via email on Friday afternoon, saying it would go into effect in October and that existing, noncompliant material must be removed by the end of November.

What's next: Some sex workers tell Axios they made long-term financial commitments, including mortgages, based on the presumption that they'd continue being able to post via OnlyFans.

  • Most say they'll maintain their OnlyFans pages as a way to preserve contact with their subscribers, some of whom pay for private chats. But they're also searching out backup sites, many of which are actively recruiting OnlyFans models.
  • Both Evans and Ashford have already created alternative accounts, but acknowledge it will take time for new platforms to earn user trust when it comes to things like privacy.

The bottom line: There is always a material risk of basing one's business on someone else's platform. Sex workers just learned that the hard way.

Go deeper: OnlyFans has lots of users, but can't find investors

Go deeper

Aug 31, 2021 - Technology

Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Image

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

12 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

12 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

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