Remember when OnlyFans said it would ban explicit content, putting its creators’ livelihoods in jeopardy, then suspended that ban less than a week later? Even though Patreon’s guidelines on adult content are far more limited than those for OnlyFans, the changing standards of credit card companies like Mastercard are affecting how its creators can make money online.
As part of its quarterly Creator Policy Engagement Program (CPEP), which invites creators to engage with Patreon’s Policy Team, Patreon wrote in a blog post that it will roll out tools to help its adult creators meet the new Mastercard standards. These standards, effective October 1, were cited as one of many potential reasons for OnlyFans’ short-lived potential porn ban, though founder Tim Stokley blamed banks. The impending Mastercard requirements involve consent documentation (verifying that all people involved in adult content are 18+ and consent to distribution), as well as age and identity verification (requiring creators to provide government-issued ID). Patreon will require creators to meet these guidelines for new posts.
Currently, Patreon allows certain kinds of NSFW content behind paywalls, like “works depicting real people in the nude in sexual contexts,” animations or illustrations of nudity and sexual encounters, and “audio content that features simulated sexual interactions.” But it blatantly bans pornographic material and “sexual services.”
The OnlyFans debacle was only the latest threat to the livelihoods of online sex workers, who have been repeatedly deplatformed. Patreon cracked down on NSFW content in 2017, citing pressure from payment partners. While Patreon has stated that porn was never allowed, its guidelines used to be less stringent, allowing more flexibility for adult creators, some of whom made the bulk of their income on the platform. So, like the recent backlash against OnlyFans, adult creators had protested the sudden suspension of many sex workers who depended on the platform for income.
“You at Patreon have been our friends in the tech world, you have told us so. Imagine how hard it must be for us to survive without the tools you had to start your business. Remember that our fan bases have been a pillar of your community and supported that very business,” an open letter to Patreon said.
Patreon told TechCrunch in a written statement that everything discussed in the blog post should be considered a work-in-progress. Patreon is hosting a livestream tomorrow for creators to share their thoughts about adult content on the platform, as well as the potential to distribute creator coins, marking Patreon’s first potential investment in crypto. Given the experimental nature of the CPEP program, it’s unclear if the platform will roll out additional protections for adult creators beyond its tools to help meet Mastercard standards.
“Patreon is committed to cultivating strong relationships with our creators and developing policies that support their business efforts,” the platform told TechCrunch. “The work involves constantly talking with our creators to ensure our policies will continue to help them create independent, sustainable income.”
Update 9/27/21, 4:00 PM EST: Patreon received further clarification from Mastercard that these guidelines will only apply to posts published after October 15th.