Porn made OnlyFans a powerhouse. Now it's banning sexual content after pressure from banks

Key Points
  • OnlyFans said it will no longer allow "sexually explicit" content, starting Oct. 1.
  • The company said the decision was taken to comply with requests from its banking and payment providers.
  • The platform lets sex workers charge their fans a fee to view "not safe for work" material.
The OnlyFans logo displayed on a laptop.
Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

OnlyFans is banning the one thing most users go to its site for: pornography.

The U.K.-based content subscription service said Thursday it will no longer allow "sexually explicit" content as of Oct. 1. OnlyFans said the decision was taken to comply with requests from its banking and payment providers.

"In order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the platform, and to continue to host an inclusive community of creators and fans, we must evolve our content guidelines," OnlyFans said in a statement.

Payment processors Mastercard and Visa cut ties last year with rival Pornhub after accusations the porn site showed videos containing underage sex, rape and revenge porn. Pornhub denied claims it allows child sexual abuse material, and subsequently tightened its rules to prohibit uploads from unverified users.

OnlyFans said Thursday it would allow certain posts containing nudity, so long as they adhere to its "Acceptable Use Policy." It's not clear how that will work in practice. OnlyFans' terms of service outline a number of things that are prohibited from its platform, including material involving people under age 18 and other illegal or harmful content.

"We will be sharing more details in the coming days and we will actively support and guide our creators through this change in content guidelines," the company said.

Founded by British businessman Tim Stokely in 2016, OnlyFans has risen in popularity in recent years, thanks in large part to its hosting of clips and photos from adult performers. The platform lets sex workers charge their fans a fee to view "not safe for work" material.

OnlyFans boomed during the coronavirus pandemic, as internet users stuck at home searched for entertainment online and people let go from their jobs turned to the platform as an alternative way to make a living.

OnlyFans claims to have over 130 million users and 2 million content creators. The company generated net revenue of $375 million last year, according to an Axios report Thursday, which cited an investor deck. OnlyFans expects to hit $1.2 billion in revenues this year, and $2.5 billion by 2022, Axios reported.

More than 300 OnlyFans creators reportedly earn at least $1 million annually, while 16,000 creators make at least $50,000 a year.

With numbers like that, you'd think venture capitalists would be lining up to write a check for OnlyFans. However, according to Axios, many investors are steering clear due to concerns over its adult content. Some venture funds are prohibited from investing in sexual content sites due to agreements with their institutional backers.

OnlyFans was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

The move is likely to anger many OnlyFans content creators, who rely on the service as a key source of income. Many adult entertainers use OnlyFans to complement the work they do for other porn sites. Doing away with the content OnlyFans is best known for could also severely impact its revenues.

However, OnlyFans insists it is more than just a platform for sex workers. Celebrities like Cardi B and Bella Thorne have joined the platform in the past year, for example. It's also used by chefs, fitness enthusiasts and musicians. But porn is by far the most popular category on the site.

OnlyFans is majority-owned by Leonid Radvinsky, a Ukrainian-American porn entrepreneur. According to a Bloomberg report, the firm is seeking a round of funding that would value it at more than $1 billion.