A Dangerous Divide Over Age Verification

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Over the past several years, our industry has aggressively battled European regulators over mandatory age-verification protocols, which many have argued lack privacy safeguards for visitors and unfairly burden businesses. During the battle over the 2019 Digital Economy Act, adult sites were almost uniformly opposed — and helped kill the bill.

So it was notable this summer when OnlyFans broke with the industry to publicly endorse the UK’s controversial Online Safety Bill, which requires mandatory age-verification of visitors to adult and social media sites. OnlyFans already requires visitors to submit IDs and submit to biometric age-verification and says it hopes the bill will force rivals to do the same.

The significance of this move can not be overstated. The largest and likely most profitable adult company — with revenues of approximately $5 billion in 2021 — has not only biometrically age-gated its entire site, it is encouraging government efforts to require it for everyone from tube sites to Twitter. 

Some of this no doubt is self-preservation. OnlyFans’ massive success has led to largely unwarranted attacks from antiporn activists and regulators. Working with the government is a smart political move, and a natural defense against the outrageous claims lobbied against it. Last week, UK regulator Ofcom praised the site for its protocols — and criticized its smaller rivals.

It’s also a smart business move. After all, OnlyFans is one of the only adult-friendly sites with AVS, and permits no adult content beyond its paywall. Should the Online Safety Bill pass, and should Germany, France and other countries step up their enforcement of AVS regulations — either banning them or requiring expensive protocols that other sites can’t afford — OnlyFans is poised to pick up the market. 

(They’re not the only ones planning for an AVS future. In Germany, xHamster — which had previously evaded a block by rerouting its DNS — finally sat down with regulators. And social media sites like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok have all recently announced tentative moves toward some form of age-gating.)

For producers, webmasters and distributors, OnlyFans’ support of mandatory AVS should be a wake-up call. When the biggest platform in the business is endorsing the work of regulators, you’d better have plans to meet that standard — or find a way to get in the rooms where those regulations are being written. 

FSC is working to meet with regulators and legislators — to help design regulations which protect kids but aren’t discriminatory or overly burdensome on adult businesses. But to do it, we need a unified position, and the backing of the industry. We’ve got a long road ahead, but here’s where we start: a short anonymous survey on your AVS plans (and concerns), and an invitation to collaborate directly with us on the effort.

Take the FSC Survey: AVS and Adult

Mike Stabile
Director of Public Affairs
[email protected]