Children use fraudulent personal information to sell explicit videos and images on OnlyFans.
A BBC News investigation revealed a number of accounts started by minors on the adult website, which has over one million “creators” who share self-produced content with over 120 million paying subscribers. In return, OnlyFans takes a 20% discount from all subscriptions.
Established in 2019, OnlyFans exploded in popularity last year, when many turned to the site as a financial lifeline during the pandemic.
The platform’s policy requires users to be over 18 and, in response to the BBC’s findings, insisted that their verification process meets regulatory requirements.
But the BBC discovered reports of children on the site as young as 12. In one case, a 14-year-old used his grandmother’s passport to access the site. And a 17-year-old from Nevada was featured in graphic videos posted to a legitimate adult account – his 18-year-old girlfriend – putting the account owner in violation of OnlyFans’ terms and conditions.
The BBC has made its point by using the ID of a 26-year-old to create an account, demonstrating that anyone can steal personal information to bypass the verification process.
“Some of the girls have thousands of followers on Instagram, and they have to comb it,” said an anonymous underage user. “I want to be like them.”
OnlyFans did not respond to The Post’s request for comment, but the company reportedly closed accounts opened by the BBC.
However, reports from law enforcement in the US and UK, school administrators and other child protection experts indicate the problem remains widespread. Meanwhile, anonymous call notes from advisers to the UK’s Childline hotline support the claims, with some also complaining that their images appeared on the site without their consent.
At the same time, many underage creators of OnlyFans are said to be victims of previous abuse or suffer from mental illness, according to Childline. Some have even been identified as missing children.
“In 2019, there were about a dozen missing children who were linked to content on OnlyFans,” said Staca Shehan, vice president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). “Last year the number of these cases almost tripled.”
The BBC paraphrased a statement by OnlyFans saying their security efforts have protected minors from blackmail and exploitation, and are taking immediate action on the breached accounts.
Last month, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) released its annual report which identified 68,000 cases of “self-generated” images – meaning they offered the content – of children online. This represents an increase of 77% over the previous year.
The BBC spoke to one of these underage OnlyFans users, Leah, 17, as well as her mother, Caitlyn. Leah started on the site using a fake driver’s license and promised that she would only post pictures of her feet in exchange for money. But its content quickly turned into videos of masturbation and other sex acts as followers argued for more and more explicit content.
OnlyFans claimed Leah’s engagement was an “oversight,” although her bogus license should have triggered their security system. They said her account was approved during a transition period when the site went “from an efficient identity and age verification system to an exceptionally efficient new version.”
The BBC test showed that the ‘new, exceptionally efficient system’ would no longer accept a fake ID, but underage users could still use an adult’s real ID to access it. While OnlyFans requires users to submit a photo posing with their ID – to confirm the faces match – that effort would not have been enough to detect the difference between a 17-year-old girl who used a coin. 26-year-old identity to open an account. .
Even after a user reported Leah’s actual age to site moderators, their account was again deemed legitimate in a follow-up review. OnlyFans only closed their account after the BBC’s investigation. The same was true of a number of other suspected juvenile accounts uncovered by the BBC, many of which had already been reported to the police.
Leah, who had a troubled childhood, according to her mother, regrets her OnlyFans fame.
“She won’t come out at all, really,” Caitlyn said. “She doesn’t want to be seen.”