Mainstream celebrities already dominate most social media platforms, touting tens of millions of followers across their accounts. However — although it didn’t technically occur on a social media platform — actress Bella Thorne’s recent stint with OnlyFans calls into question the place of well established celebrities online. OnlyFans is a content subscription platform which is often used by sex workers. Soon after advertising her OnlyFans account on her other social media platforms, Thorne started offering a pay-per-view (PPV) post, which she claimed would be a nude picture of herself. However, the PPV post did not show Thorne nude, leading many users to request refunds from OnlyFans. After this incident, the platform introduced new policies that increased the wait time for creators to receive payment from a week to a month, reduced the amount that creators can be tipped, and reduced how much they can charge for PPV posts. Many speculated that these new policies, which decrease individuals’ ability to profit off the site, were developed as a reaction to the mass refunds that OnlyFans had to process due to Thorne’s false advertising. While OnlyFans claimed that the changes were not related to Thorne, many creators criticized her on social media for impacting the livelyhoods of sex workers on OnlyFans, many of whom, unlike Thorne, depend on the platform to make money.
If it is the case that OnlyFans introduced these new policies to prevent a repeat of what happened with Thorne, then in order to roll back the policies they would likely have to ban all celebrities from using the site. Even if OnlyFans reverses the policies, continuing to allow celebrities with huge followings to create accounts could simply keep the door open for a new incident to occur, leading to yet another round of changes. The best course of action for OnlyFans would be to cut off celebrities from the site as a whole in order to protect sex workers.
It would be abnormal for a media site to ban all celebrities, given that often, celebrities are the individual creators that bring in the most users for sites like OnlyFans, due to their large followings. However, it’s the potential for any user on OnlyFans to have such a huge following that makes situations like what happened with Thorne inevitable. Thorne seemed to be unaware of the widespread damage she could cause by creating an OnlyFans account and misleading her followers. This ignorance, coupled with the power that Thorne has as a celebrity, was a recipe for disaster. No user of any site should have the power to permanently alter said site’s practices. But, because of their huge reach, that is exactly the type of power that celebrities hold on OnlyFans.
One of the best things about OnlyFans is the control it gave sex workers to make money on their own terms. However, due to Bella Thorne, a large part of that freedom was ripped away from creators in a heartbeat. If OnlyFans wants to continue to provide a space for sex workers and other creators to thrive, they need to stop allowing celebrities to take advantage of the site. In addition, OnlyFans customers should prioritize supporting sex workers over celebrities on the site, particularly following these changes to the platform. OnlyFans has the potential to provide a safe and reliable space to sex workers, but as long as celebrities and profits are prioritized over the average person, that space will never truly be protected.