OnlyFans, the subscription platform that allows users to pay in exchange for access to their favourite influencer’s exclusive content (which can range from anything like suggestive pictures and X-rated videos to workout routines and food recipes), has temporarily paused services for all of its Russian accounts. Up until now, the UK-based tech company had been one of a few well-known Western companies that had continued to operate in Russia since the country’s invasion of Ukraine. But don’t get mistaken, the recent restrictions aren’t driven by humanitarian reasons, but rather by a technical issue.
According to The Independent, the company said in a statement to Motherboard that “OnlyFans is a creator-first business” and that “over the past few months we have explored several options to continue providing our services to creators impacted by the Russia/Ukraine war. However, due to a further tightening of payment restrictions to and from Russia, OnlyFans can no longer properly serve our Russian creator community. As a result, we are taking steps to temporarily pause accounts where payments are received in Russia.”
This isn’t the first time that OnlyFans has done this either, as back in February when the latest invasion into Ukraine first began, Rolling Stone reported that Russian creators on the platform received a message from support that read: “Please be informed that your country is not supported for payouts, therefore we are unable to assist you regarding that matter at this time.” This restriction was lifted shortly after.
All online creators based in Russia have been stifled by restrictions across the tech board, such as by YouTube, Instagram and many payment operators including American Express and Mastercard—as well as, critically, being partly banned from the SWIFT framework that underpins many financial transactions.
Simply put, OnlyFans has had to enforce such restrictions due to the fact that the platform is unable to support payments that are generated by the tech company from creators and users, and it is unclear as to how long this will remain in place. Sadly, this means that the livelihood of all online creators is at stake—with many (if not, most) relying solely on social media platforms such as OnlyFans, Instagram and YouTube as their main source of income.
However, the latest change in such policies is forcing the media generation to rethink and recourse ways of getting paid for services. Is this the chance cryptocurrencies have been waiting for in becoming a blanket form of transactions globally? Well, it’s starting to seem as though it might be. This is, arguably, the first major real-world test as to how ordinary people will start to value cryptocurrency.
There is one vital necessity Russian creators could purchase to continue their online communications, a VPN—allowing them to access the broader web outside the country. Of course, due to financial restrictions, foreign-based VPN providers don’t accept Russian bank cards, but they do take Bitcoin. Although Russia is in fact one of the world’s largest miners of Bitcoin, it is still not the biggest—making it vulnerable to further sanctions just like SWIFT.
However, blocking crypto transactions could undoubtedly prove more challenging because digital currencies are designed to exist, for the most part, without borders.