Fetish performer Allie Eve Knox makes a living off uploading her videos of solo play, financial domming, and even mukbangs to porn platforms like iWantClips. But last month iWantClips removed thousands of her videos without warning.

“That literally wiped away seven years of my career,” she said. “It put me into a fucking spiral.” 

Knox spent subsequent weeks trying to figure out what to do next. She knew she wasn’t going to leave porn — and doubted she could get a mainstream job given the mark she’d made online in the adult industry anyway — but she worried about paying her bills after her content had been stripped. 

Mastercard’s new regulations on explicit websites that went into effect last month, like identity verfication and approval by the host site before publication, have porn sites and sex workers scrambling to keep their content compliant. If they don’t, they could see their work scrubbed away like Knox did. Not only that, porn sites each have their own way of following Mastercard’s rules and they aren’t always clear, leaving people like Knox even more confused about how to operate in this new porn landscape when their wages are on the line. 

The current reality is bleak for online performers, but the ripple effects could be even worse for  the future of online porn and internet freedom as a whole, porn industry insiders and free speech advocates said. Given mass video deletions, faulty facial recognition software being deployed for verification, and the fear of being doxxed, sex workers are sounding the alarm about the dangers of a sanitized internet.

How the new rules impact kinky porn

It’s possible that your favorite creator or platform may be removed from the internet due to these rules in the (very near) future. This is especially true if you’re into fetish content like bondage, pain, or group play. 

If someone makes only solo “vanilla” videos, which can include everything from nude imagery to masturbating on camera, for instance, they don’t have to file the myriad paperwork for themselves and their scene partners, nor worry about a fetish search term getting flagged. But solo vanilla content could still be removed due to technical errors. iWantClips uses an AI recommended by Mastercard to flag questionable clips, but the system has been falsely zapping compliant videos due to special effects, mirrors, and outfit changes. These flourishes confuse the AI system, which thinks there are multiple performers in the video, even though there’s only one real person there, iWantClips explained in a statement on Twitter. More than one performer requires multiple ID checks and model release forms, but solo performers using mirrors and changing their outfits obviously don’t have those. 

Knox said that iWantClips is slowly reposting incorrectly scrubbed videos, but only a small fraction — 120 out of thousands — are currently up. Because each video needs to be pre-approved, the process is slow, she explained. The porn platform didn’t respond to Mashable’s request for comment. 

Sex workers are confused and fearful said LaLa B Holston-Zannell, the trans justice campaign manager for the ACLU. Many don’t fully understand the new rules or what to look out for. They may not know which keywords — such as “rape play” or other phrases that could be flagged for showing non-consenting acts even if the performers agree to play the role — could get their content and entire profile on certain sites deleted.

Then there are the patchwork of compliance rules. OnlyFans, for example, has its own release form every performer that appears in a scene must sign, said Knox, even though the performers already signed other forms at the time of shooting.

For Knox, this arduous process played out in a hair-pulling way recently. OnlyFans sent her an email asking to get another performer in a video to file their verification form. But that other performer was her ex-husband who hadn’t been in the industry for years. What’s worse, she only had 48 hours to get a hold of her ex and ask him to fill out the paperwork. She couldn’t get a hold of him, which frustrated Knox because she had the appropriate documentation when the videos were actually made.

As a result of this new form from OnlyFans, Knox pulled her videos from the site, which has become especially popular during the pandemic as folks seek new revenue streams following job losses and viewers are keen to watch. Knox called it “impossible” to keep her content up, and estimated she’s making 30 percent of what she made in 2020.


“Even spanking is considered an issue.”

– Zoey Sterling, BDSM model

Adult content creator and BDSM model Zoey Sterling said sex workers are facing other problems with OnlyFans too, even though explicit content is technically allowed. In their updated terms of service, the platform bans some kink and BDSM activities including “lack of consent, hypnosis, intoxication, sexual assault, torture, sadomasochistic abuse or hardcore bondage.”

“Even spanking is considered an issue,” said Sterling. “If they find it…they’ll wipe your whole page.” Sterling said she knows performers who have woken up to their pages broken and money missing. OnlyFans didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

Marginalized creators will be hit hardest

In addition to documentation, sites like Pornhub have third-party verification services that scan faces on identification cards to comply with the new rules. However, facial recognition software has been shown time and again to discriminate against people of color and trans people

Sterling, who is Black, said she had to contact a camming site’s IT department when she signed up because her ID initially showed up as invalid. She dealt with that before the new Mastercard rules. However, the increased use of facial recognition is expected to negatively impact the most marginalized sex workers because of implicit biases in the AI, said Mike Stabile, a representative for Free Speech Coalition, a porn industry lobbying group. 

Another snag is re-uploading now-expired IDs that were valid at the time of a shoot. This could impact any sex worker, but especially a trans one. Say a gender non-conforming performer changed their name after a porn shoot, but their old ID has their deadname. A platform will likely see the old ID as invalid. 

Given that platforms need lots of personal information — like one’s legal name and address — there’s also a legitimate fear of leaks and doxxing, said Sterling.

A crash course in porn legislation

What porn consumers may not know is that creators have verified performers’ ages and consent for decades. Since 1988, U.S. lawmakers have required porn producers to keep records of documentation (including legal name, date of birth, and a copy of a photo ID) for people who engaged in sexual activity on camera. This law is commonly referred to in the industry as “2257 regulations” because of the section of legal code it stems from.

The U.S. government expanded these regulations as internet porn boomed in the early 2000s. Now, the law requires the same record keeping for both “primary” producers, who make porn, and “secondary” producers, who host porn online. As explained by the lawyer-run blog AdultBizLaw, some platforms — such as megasite Pornhub, which isn’t based in the U.S. — ignored this rule until recently. 

If above-board porn productions have required verification since before the dawn of the internet, why are the Mastercard regulations happening now, and how are they different?

The lead up to Mastercard’s crackdown

Banks and credit card companies have gone after legal porn and other sexually-related goods for years, said Stabile. In 2012, for example, explicit site Make Love Not Porn founder Cindy Gallop explained in a TED Talk that PayPal, Chase, and other major processors refused to work with her due to the nature of the content. 

Fast forward to the end of last year, when the New York Times published an opinion piece on illegal child porn content on Pornhub. The article sparked controversy due to its sourcing of far-right, evangelical groups, but Mastercard and Visa stopped processing payments on the site soon after. Pornhub then purged all unverified videos in one fell swoop last December.

Pornhub’s parent company, MindGeek, had around 13,000 reports of illegal material such as child porn, in 2020, according to data compiled by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), an anti-porn lobbying group. By contrast, Facebook had over 20 million reports; Twitter had 65,000; and TikTok had 23,000. 



Pornhub and MindGeek should’ve been taking down illegal content more proactively, said Maggie MacDonald, a Ph.D. researcher at the University of Toronto studying pornography platforms, but Facebook has a much bigger trafficking content problem that isn’t causing it to shut down.

While NCOSE has also called out social media platforms for hosting child porn, it’s been most successful at squeezing porn sites that don’t have the same resources as tech behemoths to monitor content and are dependent on payment processors. Facebook doesn’t make its money off taking a percentage of sales. It makes money from ads and the digital ad buys have been flowing during the pandemic.

Mastercard announced its new regulations in a supposed effort to curb illegal content, but the rules have squashed legal content too. As a result, OnlyFans said it was going to ban explicit content earlier this year  then reversed course somewhat following backlash from sex workers.

Despite the outcry against OnlyFans, the new Mastercard regulations barreled on and went into effect on October 15. Now, in addition to adhering to the U.S. legal code, adult sites that want to use Mastercard must approve all content before publication; provide ID verification and a model release form (where they consent to doing the scene) for each performer; keep said records on file; make it possible to file a complaint and/or request content be removed; and forbid certain search terms around potentially non-consensual or underage content. 

Deletion of online spaces

Adult content creator Siri Dahl said she hasn’t been impacted by Mastercard’s rules yet, but is nonetheless weary.

“[The new rules] just make it very likely that most platforms could eventually just go out of business entirely,” she said, “because they can’t keep enough full-time staff to do round the clock moderation and be able to remove videos.”

Some have already experienced scares. Adult platform PocketStars had an overnight shutdown of their credit card processor earlier this year without warning according to Sterling, who uses the site. PocketStars hasn’t responded to Mashable’s request for comment, but did tweet about the payment issue in June

Because of all the logistical hoops adult creators need to jump through, some fear being pushed offline, said Holston-Zannell. “Folks who were street-based sex workers now found a way that’s more safe because they can do it online,” she said. “But now [they say], ‘no, I’m gonna have to go back to the street.'”

Knox, and Dahl both discussed the possibility of meeting clients in real life as well if they have to, making their jobs more precarious. “We’re just living day by day to see what’s next,” said Knox. 

Sterling, meanwhile, said she’s expanding to SFW ventures like a podcast in order to diversify her offerings, as she’s afraid adult content will be further stifled. 

All the while, Dahl and Knox said their clients aren’t privy to how these rules are impacting their livelihoods, and could impact internet porn overall.

“Even in my own fan base…even those diehard fans who are paying attention, they still don’t understand what’s going on,” Dahl said.

Bitcoin won’t save porn

One way around the grip of payment processors is to accept cryptocurrency. While porn creators are already embracing cryptocurrency, it’s not a quick fix to circumvent the cloistering rules. Knox has lost clients because she only accepts crypto (due to having problems with every other payment processor in the past), and even when a customer does use it, it’s not an immediate transaction. A Bitcoin transaction could take 10 minutes since it needs to be “confirmed,” or verified, by the Bitcoin network. It could take even longer if many people are trying to make transactions at one time.

“Someone can’t be horny and go buy my videos and jerk off in those three minutes,” she said. “There’s just a lot of hurdles.”


If you watch porn, it’s possible the content you enjoy and performers you support will vanish.

Yet another hurdle according to Dominic Ford, CEO of adult blog site and marketplace JustForFans, is that one can’t buy a subscription with Bitcoin. Bitcoin requires the user to initiate the transaction every time, so a website like JustForFans can’t pull money out of someone’s wallet automatically as of now. The porn industry relies on recurring billing, said Ford (think of monthly studio or OnlyFans subscriptions), so not having that functionality of automatic charging is a problem. 

Further, a new payment technology isn’t going to help the overall trend of platforms and payment processors desexualizing online spaces.

Canaries in a coalmine

If you watch porn, it’s possible the content you enjoy and performers you support will vanish. Even if you don’t, you’ll likely be affected, regardless. 

“Sex workers are the canary in the coal mine of free speech online,” said Stabile, echoing similar comments from sex workers and other experts. “Everything that happens to them eventually trickles down to civilians.” 

He used shadowbanning, when social media sites block someone’s content without removing them, as an example. Sex workers have complained about shadowbanning for years, and now mainstream users are claiming that their posts are being shadowbanned as well. The social media companies, however, claim shadowbanning is a myth and that posts sometimes aren’t seen due to algorithmic rules. 


“Consumers might not notice that sex workers are gone but they will notice when their own rights and spaces start to shrink.”

– Mike Stabile, Free Speech Coalition

“Consumers might not notice that sex workers are gone,” he continued, “but they will notice when their own rights and spaces start to shrink. We’re seeing it now with biometric facial recognition, age estimation, and ID verification.” Instagram, for example, recently asked some users to verify they’re real with a “video selfie.”

What we’re also seeing is the desxualization of the internet as a whole, said MacDonald, the porn researcher. Take Tumblr, which banned adult content in 2018 in the wake of FOSTA-SESTA legislation, which is anti-trafficking in theory but anti-sex work in practice. Facebook and TikTok wipe posts remotely related to sex, including sexual education content

Sex is part of the social fabric of life, said MacDonald. People will always want to discuss and portray it in spaces they inhabit. But monopolistic platforms are increasingly policing such content, and credit card companies are doing the same.

Holston-Zannell urged consumers to question why these companies are controlling their purchases in the first place: “Why do you want Mastercard making those decisions?” she asked. “If they can regulate this, what else can they regulate?” 

While she’s hopeful that conversations around these rules are starting thanks to sex workers, she and other experts worry about what could be down the pipeline — for everyone. 

“In the past few weeks, we’ve seen politicians in Texas and South Carolina deem books on sexuality and gender identity ‘pornography’ and banning them from libaries in order to protect children from seeing them,” said Stabile. “Do you really think they don’t plan to come for the internet?”

©



You may also like