Major tech companies have faced no shortage of criticism in recent months, as chat logs and metadata become ever-more relevant tools in prosecutors’ cases against people who have abortions. Now, Meta (formerly Facebook) is facing multiple lawsuits for allegedly accepting bribes to put adult entertainers on a terrorist watch list. Yes, you read that right.
OnlyFans, the subscriber content platform that is most well known for adult content, allegedly took drastic measures in 2018 to stop models and entertainers who use its service promoting from rival platforms that also feature their content. Three lawsuits—two from rival platforms and one class-action suit from OnlyFans content creators—say that the website bribed Meta to put over 20,000 names and social media accounts on a watch list managed by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a non-profit intended to “stop the spread of mass shooting videos and other terrorist content across social media sites” that was co-founded by Meta, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube.
It only takes one site among this group to flag something as being “terrorist-related,” which then gives them a digital print, or a “hash.” As a result, the OnlyFans users who have been “hashed” are effectively “shadow banned,” significantly reducing their visibility on websites other than OnlyFans.
“The blacklisting of plaintiffs and others has caused OnlyFans to achieve a drastically enlarged market share while its competitors stagnated or declined,” attorneys for JustFor.Fans argued in a filing earlier this month, first reported in the New York Post. “The defendants engaged in a scheme to misuse a terrorist blacklist to obtain a competitive advantage.”
For the sex workers who use OnlyFans—and other platforms—this is about their livelihoods. Those who think they’ve been placed on the list have seen their posts mysteriously disappear from places like Instagram, which hurts their bottom line: “I was angry because it affected my income when my social media traffic dropped significantly,” Alana Evans told the Post on Tuesday.
Evans is one of three plaintiffs (in addition to Kelly Pierce and Ruby) who filed a class action lawsuit against OnlyFans, which is itself one of three suits currently pending on this matter. As XBIZ reported, FanCentro filed a civil suit in Florida in November 2021 after experiencing a slowing in social media traffic in 2018 that was “so substantial and dramatic that it could not have been the result of filtering by human reviewers.” As FanCentro’s lawyers pointed out, it was peculiar that OnlyFans seemed to have a “‘mysterious immunity’ [...] to this new heightened classification/filtering activity.”
According to the Post, the bribes were funneled from Felix International, OnlyFans’ parent company, “through a secret Hong Kong subsidiary into offshore Philippines bank accounts set up by the crooked Meta employees.”
Meta and OnlyFans have denied everything, claiming that the allegations are “without merit,” and Meta has asked for at least one lawsuit to be thrown out.
Remarkably, the issue of pornography feels almost incidental to the whole fiasco—this is just about beating the competition.