Sex Workers Are Getting Deplatformed, Too
The other shoe is finally dropping on Donald Trump’s dangerous use of social media. After the January 6 storming of the Capitol—and four years maintaining that Trump and the conspiracy theorists and hate groups he amplified could or should not be reigned in—Facebook, Twitter, and many other platforms took steps to permanently suspend or otherwise restrict accounts belonging to him and many of his extremist supporters . Still, companies like YouTube were not so quick or decisive in their actions, and many people across the political spectrum are weighing the pros and cons of silencing his calls for insurrection. No such consideration is being given to sex workers.
In the past month, Instagram and TikTok have staged a mass purge of users promoting their OnlyFans accounts. While OnlyFans, a subscription-based service, was not created specifically for sex workers, it’s become the leading platform for creators to share sexually suggestive and explicit content with their subscribers. Now, apparently, those creators are being booted off other platforms with the kind of zeal only recently applied to people advocating violent overthrow of the government.
TikTok confirmed to Rolling Stone that users are “are prohibited from posting even third-party links to their OnlyFans,” such as including it in their Linktree, but enforcement appears to be even stricter than that. TikToker Kristen Hancher was permanently banned earlier this week, after allegedly just merely referencing OnlyFans in the caption of one of her videos.
“TikTok got back to me saying that they permanently banned me because I captioned one of my TikToks ‘subscribe to my OF lol’ with a video that was completely PG,” she wrote in the comments on TikTokRoom.
TikTok’s purge has been underway since at least December, the same month Instagram caused confusion when its updated terms of service. While the company assured users that sex workers were not being targeted, a round of accounts associated with OnlyFans appeared to get slashed on January 11.
“Lena and Riley Reid’s instagrams just got deleted. My girl literally hasn’t posted in 3 months,” No Jumper creator Adam Grandmaison tweeted in reference to his partner, Lena The Plug. “A bunch of other big Onlyfans girls are banned now too. Today was the purge apparently.”
He also attached a message that Instagram allegedly sent to one of the purged accounts.
A bunch of other big Onlyfans girls are banned now too. Today was the purge apparently. This is a message one girl got from IG pic.twitter.com/WE4y20lHdq— adam22 (@adam22) January 11, 2021
Bella Thorne, who made headlines for her own controversial use of OnlyFans last summer, has claimed that accounts are being punished for infractions committed before the terms of service were updated.
“That’s like banning alcohol from everyone here and then being like ‘Hey, by the way. You? You drank alcohol back when it was legal...well guess what, now you’re all in jail,” Thorne said in an Instagram Story.
Instagram emphasized in its statement that the company hasn’t changed anything about how it enforces its policies.
Many creators rely on their established social media accounts to steer potential subscribers to OnlyFans. And those who do not already have large followings need other platforms to painstakingly recruit customers. OnlyFans creator Elle Morocco told the New York Times that she personally reaches out to people who like and comment on her Instagram and Twitter photos to ask them to subscribe to her OnlyFans. Since November, she has made $250.