Twitter was tempted by the porn market, but was forced to shelve its project, according to revelations from the American daily The Verge. In the spring of 2022, shortly before Elon Musk’s offensive, the social network would have seriously considered monetizing sexual content, already present in large numbers on its platform. The idea: to offer creators and creators of adult content to offer their photos and videos in return for a subscription, on which Twitter would take a commission. Project name: Adult Content Monetization (ACM).
Except that the internal audit didn’t go as planned. The team in charge issued an unfavorable opinion due to the platform’s lack of tools to detect non-consensual content, and in particular child pornography. The social network therefore put the ACM in the closet in May 2022. However, it would have allowed it to test a new, particularly lucrative funding channel.
Onlyfans, the goldmine of porn 2.0
With the ACM project, Twitter would have become a direct competitor of Onlyfans, the standard-bearer of the new erotic and pornography market, which benefits from weak competition (mym, fansly, etc.). Just as television saw the appearance of YouTube, the world of porn saw that of Onlyfans: a platform where ” models » manage their own businesses, from the production of photos, videos and messages, to their promotion. Anyone can get started, and moreover, several stars have taken the plunge (with more or less bare content) such as rapper Bhad Babbie or actress Bella Thorne.
If Twitter has eyed this market, it is because it hides a gold mine. Onlyfans plans to generate $2.5 billion in revenue in 2022 – half of Twitter’s revenue in 2021 – and is already generating profits, where the social network is struggling to find a sustainable business model. Onlyfans derives its revenue from subscriptions (50%), sales of content by private messages (30%), tips given to creators and content under paywall [qui nécessitent un paiement pour être débloqués, ndlr].
Even though Onlyfans has made a name for itself solely by hosting erotic and pornographic content, it never mentions it in its marketing. When it was created, the company was not targeting this market. But its distribution of income – with a commission of only 20% which allows creators and creators to keep 80% – and its various modules for putting content behind a paywall, have attracted sex workers.
But depending so much on porn has played tricks on Onlyfans. In August 2021, the platform announced that it was making the decision to ban porn, creating widespread panic in the sector, before backpedaling a few days later. In the Financial Times, founder Tim Stokely blamed the ban on banks that blocked intermediary payments, which prevented creators from receiving their earnings. Since then, rumors of banishment roccur at regular intervals : Porn scares away investors as company considers going public.
Twitter is already a porn giant
Despite its huge lead in its market, Onlyfans has many flaws, however. To begin with, users of the site regularly complain about the video module, and the site encounters problems of latency or even inaccessibility in certain countries. Prohibited (in its uncensored version) from application stores (App Store and Google Play Store), it is only accessible in web version, which again brings its share of technical problems on certain browsers.
But the content creators are confronted above all with the poverty of the internal search engine, which is almost non-existent, with the exception of a random suggestion tab. Concretely, you have to type the exact name of an account to find it. For creators, that means they can’t rely on Onlyfans to put them forward, and they have to get known in some way to be found on the platform. They therefore circumvent this obstacle by advertising to each other directly on Onlyfans, or by promoting their content on other platforms starting with Reddit and Tiktok.
But it is Twitter that has established itself as a staple of promotion since the ban sexual content from Tumblr in 2018. And for good reason: the social network does not censor nudes (unlike Facebook and Instagram); accounts are open, meaning anyone can view the content; and more generally, it allows this community to organize itself. Twitter therefore had a real shot to play: most Onlyfans followers are already on its platform, it only had to give them the tools to sell their content. Better, the social network already has a subscription model – the ” Super follows » – in place since the end of 2021.
Still, another problem would then have arisen for Twitter: the reaction of advertisers, on which it depends for the overwhelming majority of its turnover. The project was therefore a double-edged sword, but it stopped before, because of a much bigger problem.
Detection tools too weak for a pornographic business
According to The Verge, the team in charge of auditing the feasibility of the project determined in April 2022 that Twitter was unable to accurately and at scale detect child pornography. That’s not all: the social network would not have sufficient tools to verify that the creators and consumers of sexual content have the majority. A spokeswoman told the US site that Twitter was investing significantly in technology and tools to fight child abuse online.
But the subject of the moderation of this content would be recurrent for more than a year in the company, which would rely on outdated detection tools, and would be confronted with an ever-increasing flow of images and videos. The Verge expands in detail on the shortcomings of the social network, based on an internal report.
And the problems with Twitter’s lack of porn regulation don’t end there. In France, at the start of the week, several child protection associations demanded from the authorities (including the regulator, Arcom) Twitter blocking. Their reasoning: the platform authorizes the opening of an account from the age of 13, and above all, it does not verify the declaration of age.
Moreover, the censorship (for users under the age of 18) of pornographic content is decided by the person who publishes it, at the time of publication. As a result, it is very easy for a minor to access porn on Twitter. Suffice to say that the company has many points to settle (in addition to its lawsuit on the takeover by Elon Musk) before returning to the pornography market.