An online game that mimicks OnlyFans has launched, designed to guide sex workers through the potential safety and income limitation pitfalls of using content-hosting platforms.
OnlyBans was created by a team of sex workers frustrated with limitations and rules many online platforms place on content they host. The game sees the player attempt to earn (an entirely virtual) $200 in six weeks by promoting their raunchy content on the OnlyFans-like game platform, with real-life sex worker problems highlighted on the journey.
The game was based on research by Hacking//Hustling, a sex worker and sex worker ally collective formed to address violence facilitated by technology.
The game’s makers said that OnlyBans “critically examines the policing of marginalized bodies and sexual labor to empathetically teach people about discrimination faced by sex workers online.” Issues highlighted by the game include content moderation algorithms, shadowbanning, ‘real name’ policies and facial recognition software.
Although basic, the game does a good job of mirroring OnlyFans’ appearance and is quick to raise sex worker issues as the player navigates their content promotion journey. Examples of real photos that have allegedly been shadowbanned (not necessarily on OnlyFans) are shown, with tips given to help people understand what kind of image is less likely to be banned.
The game is a response to increasingly restrictive measures being introduced on websites and platforms used by sex workers to make a living. US legislation regarding online porn content has been toughened in recent years, forcing sites to implement more stringent verification processes that can cause problems for legitimate sex workers attempting to promote themselves online.
Financial companies such as Mastercard and Visa have stopped working with some porn sites, and have demanded similarly tougher verification and consent rules from banks they work with, potentially further restricting earning ability for many sex workers.
OnlyFans allows explicit content on its platform, despite announcing in 2021 that such content would be banned, then quickly cancelling the policy change. Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram do not allow full nudity or explicit content on their platforms, although Twitter does.
Sex worker Lena Chen, who worked on OnlyBans, told Hyperallergic: “I was inspired to create OnlyBans as a result of my own experiences being deplatformed as an artist and sex worker. I’ve faced continual censorship, even while carefully abiding by the terms of service agreements on Facebook and Instagram.”
“OnlyBans has been an incredibly personal and political project,” Chen added.