OnlyFans has been accused of conspiring to blacklist the social media accounts of adult performers working for rival websites, BBC News has learned.
Legal documents, previously unreported, claim OnlyFans directed an unidentified social media company to disable accounts of performers by placing their content on a terrorism database.
It is alleged that OnlyFans representatives paid bribes to the firm’s employees to facilitate the practice. OnlyFans says it is aware of the legal claim and it has “no merit”.
UK website OnlyFans – best known for hosting pornography – has grown hugely in recent years. It lets users share video clips and photos with subscribers in return for tips or a monthly fee.
Performers often use social media accounts – including Twitter and Instagram – to promote and link to adult websites showing their explicit content.
BBC News has learned that rival adult website FanCentro has begun legal action in the US against OnlyFans’ owner Leonid Radvinsky and the company which receives OnlyFans’ payments, Fenix Internet LLC.
The claim was submitted to a US court in Florida last November, but has been unreported until now.
It alleges OnlyFans directed an unidentified social media company to blacklist many competitor adult websites in 2018.
FanCentro claims the social media content of adult performers promoting rival websites to OnlyFans were placed on an international database – the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). The database uses advanced technology to stop the spread of terrorist images by recording a unique digital signature for them, known as “hashes”.
The hash database is shared between all 18 members of the forum – including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. If one company hashes a video or photograph, it is flagged to other members so they can moderate similar content on their platform.
According to the legal action, FanCentro believes the database was “manipulated”, resulting in many adult performers having social posts removed and accounts disabled – despite them not containing any terrorist content.
This happened most noticeably on Instagram, according to the filing.
It is claimed the resulting reduced visibility of performers on social media led to a marked decline in traffic being driven to rival websites of OnlyFans. FanCentro is seeking financial damages.
However, performers who only promoted their OnlyFans accounts on social media did not face this punitive content moderation – it is alleged – leading to a big growth in traffic visiting the website.
The legal action also claims one or more employees of the unidentified social media company – including potentially a senior member of staff – may have been bribed to facilitate the scheme by OnlyFans representatives.
OnlyFans has not yet issued a legal response but a spokesperson said the company was aware of the claims – describing them as having “no merit”.
Facebook is not named in the legal action but BBC News has learned that it has been issued with a subpoena – meaning it may be compelled to provide records. Facebook and Instagram both have the same parent company – Meta.
The subpoena requests copies of any internal documents showing rival websites to OnlyFans included on lists of so-called Dangerous Individual or Organizations held by Meta and any payments received from OnlyFans representatives.
Under US law, companies may be subpoenaed if they hold any relevant information to the subject matter of a claim, and not only if they have evidence which may reveal whether anyone is at fault.