Children being exploited on OnlyFans, US investigator says citing explicit content

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A senior US investigator said that young children are being exploited on OnlyFans, a content subscription service, after explicit images linked to the online platform surfaced, the BBC reported on Thursday.

The investigator said that within an hour, they were able to find ten child abuse images on other platforms that had originated from OnlyFans. The agent said that the photos in question, which they believe were created in the last six months, contained watermarks from the website.

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In some of the images, pre-pubescent children were seen being directed to produce compromising images, the agent, who specializes in investigating pedophile rings, said.

“The youngest was around five years old,” the investigator said, adding that others were around 12 years old.

“Whatever their [OnlyFans’] current methodology, there’s still cracks that it’s still slipping through,” they added.

The BBC agreed to not identify the agent in order to protect their investigation.

OnlyFans bosses told the BBC that it had acted to tackle such content but that it was impossible for them to verify claims without evidence.

After a BBC News investigation in 2021 revealed that children had sold and appeared in explicit content on the website, the company’s bosses told BBC Newsnight that they had taken firm action against the issue.

Leaked documents also previously showed that moderators were allowed to issue multiple warnings to accounts posting illegal content before deciding to shut them down.

“We actively work with law enforcement. If anyone makes the mistake thinking they can upload illegal content, we will report them,” said OnlyFans chief executive Amrapali Gan.

“We’re truly the safest and most inclusive social media platform.”

However, BBC Newsnight found further evidence that the site has failed to prevent the sharing of illegal content despite moderators being allowed to give multiple warning to violators before deciding to shut them down.

“When the BBC raised this anonymous claim, we asked them for evidence to enable us to investigate,” the company said in a statement.

“The BBC refused to provide any details or evidence preventing OnlyFans from investigating this claim.”

UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said it received reports to its counselling service, Childline, which suggested that OnlyFans continued to host images of child abuse.

NSPCC added that a mother recently claimed that explicit images of her daughter, 10, had been uploaded to the platform.

“Children are not only consuming content on OnlyFans, but also are able to produce content,” warned Hannah Ruschen, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer at the NSPCC.

According to the BBC, a US charity also recently found that language which is supposed to be banned by the site was still being widely used, including a term referencing young girls.

OnlyFans said a “glitch” in the system enables some text to be ported from other website but that it had now removed the term highlighted by the Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative.

“We’ve invested significantly in improving our age and identity verification tools,” Keily Blair, chief strategy officer at OnlyFans, told the BBC.

“One of the issues that was raised was being able to pass off the account that you’ve opened to somebody else, that’s not now possible.”

The company does not believe that there is a significant amount of illegal content on its site, and Blair insisted that OnlyFans does more to address underage use than any other social media platform.

“The [rest of] the industry needs to do better around online safety,” she added.

OnlyFans has grown significantly since its launch in 2016. In 2021 alone, users spent more than $4.6 million on purchasing photos and videos shared on the platform, the BBC reported.

Gan said that 80 percent of the company’s staff work on content moderation and that it would continue to invest in the area. However, the NSPCC insists that the UK government’s current regulation and the planned legislation to prevent such harmful content do not go far enough.

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