Sex workers suffer from new credit card rules

The new policies of credit cards with adult content websites to try to protect vulnerable groups not only puts sex workers in financial straits, but affects their right to work and freedom of expression, according to US civil organizations.

The last step was taken by Mastercard on October 15, when a new policy came into force that requires companies to verify the age and identity of the creators and the prior approval of the content before its publication, among other requirements.

The intention of this change, which conservative groups want to extend to Visa and other credit card companies, is to prevent the publication of illegal and unauthorized material by those who appear in the images, although Sex workers claim that these measures are seriously harming them.

So much so that the Free Speech Coalition (FSC), the trade association for the adult entertainment industry in the United States, described the current situation from “war on pornography” and said that many sex workers will lose income during the pandemic in which working online has solved their lives.

Loss of followers

One of the affected sexual content creators is Colombian Ilanna Denofte, who asked to use only her stage name to protect her privacy.

In recent weeks it has lost nearly 300 “customers” in the OnlyFans social network, which requires the followers of each profile to pay a monthly fee to view its content, which has meant a loss of about $ 4,000 per month.

Ilanna, with a wide base of Latino followers in the United States and Mexico, explained to Efe that if things do not improve and it is no longer “profitable” she will look for other alternatives, although she would have it easier by having a university degree.

The creator of adult content called credit card companies “conservative” and considered it a “fallacy” that measures like these will end “human trafficking.”

“It’s like the drug issue. The moment you legalize the drug, there will be more control, fewer deaths, and it will cease to be a profitable business for people who move drugs illegally. What is good for drug traffickers? Illegality, the same as pimps or people who traffic in persons ”, he argued.

What she is not so clear about is that Mastercard’s measure is the most successful: “I think it’s fine that they seek to provide more security, but at what cost, it is not the best way, I think.”

Luisaglm found himself in a similar situation, which began shortly after the pandemic began a year ago and opted for “very smooth and quality” content on OnlyFans, platform that went from having 20 million followers in early 2020 to 120 million today.

This graphic designer explained to Efe that “immediately” she noticed a drop of a quarter of her followers on OnlyFans and stayed at about 150, a situation that has also affected the professionals who pay to take her videos and photographs.

These figures are far from the large numbers of sex workers who move thousands of clients and millions of dollars, but these cases are the minority and the great group of sex workers on the internet live with what they earn on these platforms.

An attack on rights

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the most influential civil rights advocacy groups in the US, sided with sex workers and said that Mastercard’s latest decision puts at risk the “ security and sustenance ”of many of them and also attentive to“ freedom of expression ”.

“The policy makes it difficult for sex workers to do business online and makes them more vulnerable,” the ACLU denounced on what it defined as financial “discrimination” that “stigmatizes” sex work and endangers the safety of sex workers by ” push the industry into the shadows ”.

This is a process that goes back a long way. Already last year Mastercard stopped allowing its cards to be used on the Pornhub portal, in an initiative that soon adopted its competition, due to the alleged presence of illegal content on this platform.

And the next target was OnlyFans, which this year pre-emptively announced that it would not accept sexually explicit content, and, although it was soon retracted, many followers canceled their subscription and have not returned, as confirmed by Ilanna.

Asked by Efe about the effects these changes are having among the people who are part of its social network, OnlyFans limited itself to stating that “they comply with the new Mastercard policies”, while the credit card company chose not to respond upon request for comments.