OnlyFans is a social media platform founded in 2016 and based out of London, England, that lets creators put their content behind a paywall for subscribers only. According to BuzzFeed News, “several terabytes” of content was hacked Thursday, February 27, though OnlyFans denies that there has been any kind of breach in its system.
Here’s what you need to know about the social media platform and the “hack” that occurred.
1. The Leak Mostly Involves Pornographic Images and Video
While OnlyFans does contain content by physical fitness experts, makeup tutorials and other types of content creators, it is a hugely popular site for adult film stars and sex workers because they can host adult content behind a paywall. According to BuzzFeed, most of the hacked data is made up of pornographic images and videos and The Verge reports the leaked accounts mostly belong to women.
Scottish journalist Vonny LeClerc first noticed the leak when she saw it trending on Twitter in the United Kingdom on Thursday. She’s not sure how the leak was assembled, but she told BuzzFeed she found at least five Mega folders being passed around on social media. She writes on Twitter that she’s “not clear whether this has been a hack or an aggregation of lots of instances of stolen/leaked data.”
The leaked information is organized in a directory that has a folder for each content creator. BuzzFeed viewed the directory via the Mega cloud storage site and says that it includes Instagram models, porn stars, TikTok stars, and more adult content creators. LeClerc says that the Twitter trend has been attracting “the trolls who are now victim-blaming and calling women ‘degenerates.’”
2. OnlyFans Says Any Pirated Content Is From Other Social Media Platforms
A representative for OnlyFans tells BuzzFeed that there is no breach or hack, it is simply someone or a group of people working to assemble leaked content.
“We have investigated claims of a site-wide hack and found no evidence of any breach of our systems,” the spokesperson tells BuzzFeed. “The content contained in the supposed ‘leak’ seems to be curated from multiple sources, including other social media applications.”
Steve Pym, OnlyFans’ head of marketing, repeated that statement on Twitter. Neither one answered any follow-up questions from BuzzFeed about whether OnlyFans has taken any steps to stop the spread of this pirated content. So what appears to be happening is that paywall content is being reshared for free and there is nothing the content creators can do to stop it.
Content creator Dee Siren tells BuzzFeed that this is unfair to the creators, whose work “should be protected just as any other performer would be in any other industry.”
3. OnlyFans Can Be A Lucrative Business For Creators, So Any Leaked Content Hurts Their Revenue Stream
According to a recent OnlyFans profile in the New York Times, top earners on the site are making tens of thousands of dollars a month. Dannii Harwood, a longtime adult entertainer, showed them what she made in August through November of 2019, which ranged from nearly $30,000 to over $50,000 per month.
But even outside of the top earners, content creators can make a decent income. Chanel Santini, a relative newcomer to the adult entertainment world at 21 years old, still pulls down at least $8000 per month, which is significantly better than what she was making as an adult film star in Las Vegas, where gigs could pay as little as $400. She also told the Times that she once worked for a madam who threatened her with violence and stole her money.
Regardless of whether this is a hack or just a compiling of pirated material, any leaked content hurts the bottom line of the content creators. As porn star Jewels Jade tells BuzzFeed, “This is paid-for private content that we own. This is illegal and a violation of our rights.”
LeClerc adds that OnlyFans is a way for a lot of non-traditional sex workers to have access to a revenue stream.
“Lots of people who use [OnlyFans] rely on this as a revenue stream — younger people, trans and nonbinary people, disabled people, people who may not have the easiest access to traditional employment,” says LeClerc. “It gives anyone a means of making paywall-protected adult content. But clearly, it offers zero protection for creators, whose content can be bought and then freely distributed onwards.”
4. Content Creators Can Check If They Are One of the Hacked Accounts
The Adult Performers Actors Guild has a video that scrolls through the folders of all the accounts compiled on the Mega cloud site so that content creators can check to see if they were affected. But that still doesn’t give them any redress for their pirated content.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the content we’ve all worked so hard to create just be thrown into the hands of the wrong people,” one OnlyFan user who wishes to remain anonymous told BuzzFeed. “From what I’ve seen pretty much everyone who has an account on OnlyFans has been leaked, but it’s such a huge amount of storage I doubt everyone’s will be seen.”
Daly Barnett, a technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tells BuzzFeed that these kinds of leaks are all too common, citing additional leaks at PussyCash and iWantClips and saying that the platforms do not do enough to protect their creators.
“This breach is another marker in an unfortunate trend. These platforms routinely have terrible security posture and reprehensible incident response,” said Barnett, adding, “I think these platforms are only interested [in] avoiding legal troubles … while making the most money off their users.”
5. Notable OnlyFans Creators Include Courtney Stodden and Kaylen Ward
Courtney Stodden, the reality TV star famous for marrying then-51-year-old Lost actor Doug Hutchison in 2011 when she was 16 years old, is a well-known OnlyFans user. In 2017, she started a £15 monthly subscription only the platform for fans to see her naked, according to the London Mirror.
Love Island star Megan Barton-Hanson did a similar thing in 2018, and in January 2020, Kaylen Ward raised over $1 million for charities working to combat and help those affected by Australia’s bushfires. Ward, who calls herself “The Naked Philanthropist,” has also recently been raising money for Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastating earthquakes that have recently hit the island.
In addition to sending nudes to anyone who donates at least $10 to the Puerto Rican earthquake relief organizations, Ward also told Business Insider that she will be donating 30 percent of her OnlyFans profits to select Puerto Rican charities.