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Citing alleged abuses on OnlyFans, politicians demand for tougher protections

A logo for OnlyFans is depicted in this illustration image, February 29, 2024

March 15 (mod1s) - Three U.S. politicians and two in Britain asked for stricter protections against online sexual exploitation after a Reuters investigation this week revealed more than 140 police reports of nonconsensual pornography on OnlyFans, the popular adults-only website.

"It is absolutely unconscionable," U.S. Representative Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican, said in a statement regarding the abuses described in the allegations.

"These findings confirm what my office has known for years: Americans are being sexually exploited on OnlyFans," said Wagner, who championed a federal statute approved in 2018 that permits victims to sue websites that knowingly promote abusive commercial sex activity. “Congress and federal law enforcement must do more.”
 
Through public records requests to the top U.S. law enforcement agencies and an examination of court cases, Reuters discovered 128 examples in which adults reported that sexual material involving them had been placed on OnlyFans without their permission between January 2019 and November 2023. A Florida woman, saying a video of her rape was uploaded and sold on OnlyFans, filed a complaint in November 2022 against the company under federal statutes including Wagner's.

In the UK, where OnlyFans is situated, Reuters reported 18 reports of nonconsensual pornography appearing on the site.
 
"Social media platforms have become a safe harbor for predators," U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement to Reuters. "Rape victims – including children – are not only violated at the moment of their attack, but they are victimized again and over again with the quick diffusion of their abuse material online. Even worse, the platforms benefit from this conduct. That's unacceptable."

U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, advocated for stronger responsibility for abusers to guarantee "we are protecting the rights and lives of all victims and survivors."
 
OnlyFans boasts on its website that it is constructing "the safest social media platform in the world." Its CEO, Keily Blair, has asserted the business examines 100% of material using human moderators and artificial intelligence methods.

In a statement reacting to Reuters findings, an OnlyFans spokeswoman noted that "in the few examples where bad actors have misused our platform," OnlyFans "removed the content swiftly, banned the user and actively supported investigations and prosecutions." She noted that OnlyFans enhanced their consent verification methods in late 2022.
 
Reuters identified more than a dozen accusations of nonconsensual porn that were submitted after that.
In a court filing, OnlyFans' U.S. affiliate, Fenix Internet, has stated it would attempt to have the Florida woman’s sex-trafficking complaint dismissed, citing a federal provision that affords websites protection from litigation based on their users' remarks.
 
UK-based OnlyFans is one of 10 firms, including social networking platforms and a porn site, that cooperate with stopNCII.org, a British effort aimed to discourage the transmission of non-consensual intimate photos (NCII) online.
 
David Wright, CEO of South West Grid for Learning, the British organization that administers stopNCII.org, did not address Reuters findings concerning OnlyFans, but said: "We encourage all platforms to make the same steps as OnlyFans to prevent NCII and work towards the eradication of intimate image abuse."
 
Damian Collins, a British member of parliament, said the Reuters research "shows there are clearly gaps in the systems being used by OnlyFans, and Ofcom, the UK (communications) regulator, should challenge the company based on this evidence."
 
Collins headed a parliamentary committee on Britain's proposed Online Safety Bill, which became law in October 2023. The legislation mandates social media providers to prohibit and rapidly delete unlawful material, including nonconsensual porn, and to stop minors from accessing damaging content or pornography.
 
Ofcom may punish corporations that don't comply up to 18 million pounds ($23 million) or 10% of their worldwide sales, whichever is bigger. Enforcement of the statute is occurring in steps.
 
OnlyFans has indicated it does not know how much explicit material is on their site. It also covers sports, music and other non-sexual material.
 
"I am concerned that if OnlyFans cannot say how much adult content is on its platform, or how many accounts are dedicated to sharing user generated pornography, then it does not have sufficiently robust monitoring systems," Collins said in a statement. "This cannot just be left to uploading tools and AI, there also needs to be effective human oversight of the platform's policies."
 
A representative for Ofcom told Reuters that addressing sexual abuse and other unlawful internet harms would be its focus under the internet Safety Act. The agency is "already actively engaging with many services about the robustness of their protection measures, including OnlyFans, under the existing video-sharing platform regulations," the spokeswoman added.
 
"We've seen some improvements as a result of this engagement, but there's more to do."
 
In a January study on video-sharing platforms, Ofcom stated OnlyFans had taken methods to check the age of its British users and made it simpler for them to report child sex abuse content.
 
In a post on X, James Bethell, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and activist on internet dangers, said he was "skeptical" that OnlyFans provided "a secure platform for sharing legitimate porn content."
 
He raised worry about the site's peculiar subscription model, in which individual producers' material is buried behind a barrier.
 
"OnlyFans has outstanding PR. But their barrier prohibits law enforcement from looking for illicit information," he added.
 
(This item has been refiled to reflect a dropped letter in the reporter's name in the signoff)

Source: https://www.reuters.com/

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