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OnlyFans wants its fans back

A road sign indicating a U-turn

Good morning! This Thursday, OnlyFans does an about-face on its porn ban plan, YouTube removed millions of COVID-19 misinfo videos, and Microsoft makes a big promotion.

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The Big Story

OnlyFans learns a lesson

In a move that shocked everyone and no one at the same time, OnlyFans reversed course yesterday on its upcoming porn ban, announcing it had "suspended" the plan just five days after its inception. The company told Protocol its ban was "no longer required due to banking partners' assurances that OnlyFans can support all genres of creators," and then refused to answer any other questions.

Sex workers are feeling extremely burned and very unwilling to forgive, as I wrote about here this week. Thousands of creators have already started moving their accounts over to competitors like JustFor.fans, and they aren't planning to stop. Because OnlyFans just "suspended" its porn ban, and has provided very little explanation aside from faulting banks for making it difficult to pay creators, people are skeptical that the new edict is a permanent one.

  • Sex workers have said for more than a year that the company has failed to provide adequate support for harassment, discrimination and other issues surrounding illegal content. The latest change is just a further indicator to many that the company is not actually interested in its sex creators.
  • "Over the last three years, I've seen [OnlyFans] people who have had their accounts deleted with no warning, money withheld and never been paid out, missing money when they do get paid out," one OnlyFans sex worker told me. "The whole site has always been not so kind towards the creators who built it up."

But was the ban really about the banking partners? Everyone in the sex work world is very skeptical, even more so now. The company had reportedly been seeking VC investment and more-mainstream cred, so speculation has swirled as to whether that was part of the motivation for the ban.

  • The founder of JustFor.fans told me that it's not impossible (or that hard) to work with banks and payment processors to both pay creators and help prevent people paying for illegal content. And now, five days after the ban objectively blew up in its face, OnlyFans has apparently figured out how to work with payment processors, too.
  • None of the banking providers blamed by OnlyFans (MetroBank, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of New York Mellon) would comment on what changed, and OnlyFans wouldn't say more than its one-line statement.
  • Mastercard's SVP of communications, Seth Eisen, reiterated to me that Mastercard found out about OnlyFans' plans to ditch porn via media reports, adding, "We did not have any conversations with OnlyFans. In fact, we do not have a direct relationship with them."

OnlyFans learned a hard and important lesson here: Sex workers have an enormous amount of power because they are incredibly popular internet stars and rake in huge sums of money. Sex will always sell, even if it isn't actually sexy to financiers and LPs and conservative groups. There are real problems with illegal online sexual material, especially child sex abuse material, but banning porn from the mainstream internet and financial sector doesn't solve that issue, nor does it make anyone in the legitimate sex work industry happy.

— Anna Kramer (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM TRELLO

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. Just as with building a healthier lifestyle, enacting measures of support on the day-to-day level is where lasting change is made.

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People Are Talking

On Protocol | Policy: Bigger businesses are better equipped to lobby, says Reed Showalter, an American Economic Liberties Project fellow:

  • "It's not that lobbying gets them big. It's that bigness makes a business able/willing to lobby."

Twitch tried to address hate raids, but the raids have only gotten worse, said streamer RekItRaven:

  • "I'm in a situation where I really, genuinely need to protect myself and my family."

On Protocol | Workplace: If companies weren't so caught up in background checks, they'd have less trouble finding talent, executive search and DEI consultant Cecyl Hobbs says:

  • "Are we really opening ourselves to think fundamentally differently about hiring and teams that we're building?"
Bill Gurley is betting on crypto, but he's backing ethereum instead of bitcoin:
  • "I think there's a ESG benefit once they move to proof-of-stake versus bitcoin. It seems to me to be the smarter way to play if you're going to have crypto exposure."

Making Moves

Xiaomi is buying Deepmotion, an autonomous driving startup, for $77.4 million as the company tries to move into the self-driving world.

Rocket Lab is now public. The space company completed its merger with a SPAC and is now valued at $4.8 billion in equity.

Charlie Bell is joining Microsoft as a CVP. He was a longtime AWS exec, and a presumptive candidate to replace Andy Jassy there before Adam Selipsky got the job.

Manish Lachwani, Headspin's co-founder and former CEO, was arrested on charges of securities fraud and wire fraud.

Panos Panay is now part of Microsoft's senior leadership team. That makes Microsoft's chief product officer part of Satya Nadella's closest group of advisors.

Netflix is organizing its first global fan event, called Tudum, which will be streamed on YouTube, Twitch and Twitter next month.

In Other News

  • Big Tech wants to help prevent cyberattacks. In a meeting with Joe Biden and other White House officials, companies including Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft pledged to invest in fixing security vulnerabilities and training for cybersecurity professionals. They'll be creating new programs, hiring new staff and training employees on cybersecurity issues going forward.
  • The United States loosened its grip on Huawei a bit, reportedly giving it the green light to buy chips from suppliers. The approval will help the company's push into the auto component business.
  • Don't miss this story about Clearview AI, which gave dozens of police departments and government agencies outside the United States free facial recognition trials, BuzzFeed reported. Some of those organizations used the controversial technology in countries that have declared it unlawful.
  • On Protocol: Here's how Facebook's smart glasses work. The company has been testing and building Project Aria concept devices for a while, and the result is a bit of Snap Spectacles, a bit of Bose Frames and a lot of cameras.
  • Most U.S. government agencies use facial recognition tools, too, and some want to use them even more. Although some lawmakers are concerned about it, 10 federal agencies said they hope to expand their use of the technology over the next few years.
  • On Protocol: Core wants musicians in the metaverse. The game development platform is encouraging artists to use its tools to create a virtual world, and so far, artist Joel Zimmerman is in on it.
  • Verizon Media leaders are confused about their roles when Apollo takes over. The private equity firm reportedly hasn't told Verizon Media execs, including its CEO, about the future of their positions, causing some concern that they might be laid off after the transition.
  • YouTube took down 1 million videos containing COVID-19 misinformation since February 2020, its chief product officer said. By and large, the video platform removes close to 10 million videos per quarter.

One More Thing

The long story behind self-driving cars

Big Tech has made it pretty clear that autonomous cars are the future. What's less clear is when these vehicles will become mainstream.

In the book "Driven," Business Insider reporter Alex Davies follows how automakers and tech leaders slowly latched on to self-driving vehicles, going all the way back to that infamous DARPA Grand Challenge. While we sit back and watch tech giants race to build these vehicles, Davies unpacks what we all really know to be true: This massive change isn't going to happen that fast, however exciting the prospect is.

A MESSAGE FROM TRELLO

According to Blissfully's 2019 SaaS Trends Report, the average employee uses at least eight apps a day to get their work done. To lower the amount of context-switching team members have to do, decrease the number of tools they need to monitor throughout the day.

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Correction: Yesterday's newsletter misstated Sheryl Sandberg's relationship with her co-donor; she donated with her fiancé.

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