Twitter almost got into the pornography business

Twitter was tempted by the porn market but was forced to shelve its project, according to revelations from the US daily The Verge. In the spring of 2022, shortly before Elon Musk’s offensive, the social network would have seriously considered monetizing sexual content, which is already present in large numbers on its platform. The idea: to offer creators and creators of adult content to offer their photos and videos in exchange for a subscription, on which Twitter would take a commission. Project Name: Adult Content Monetization (ACM).

Except that the internal audit did not go as planned. The team in charge issued an unfavorable opinion due to the platform’s lack of tools to detect non-consensual content, and child pornography in particular. The social network therefore put ACM in the closet in May 2022. However, this would have given it the opportunity to test a new, particularly lucrative financing channel.

Twitter begins testing the “edit a tweet” feature.

Onlyfans, the gold mine of porn 2.0

With the ACM project, Twitter would have become a direct competitor to Onlyfans, the standard bearer of the new erotic and pornographic market, which benefits from weak competition (myme, fansly, etc.). Just as television saw the appearance of YouTube, the world of porn saw Onlyfans: a platform where models » manage their own businesses, from the production of photos, videos and messages to their promotion. Anyone can get started, and in addition, several stars have taken the plunge (with more or less exposed content) such as the rapper Bhad Babbie or the actress Bella Thorne.

If Twitter has seen this market, it’s because it’s hiding a gold mine. Onlyfans plans to generate $2.5 billion in revenue by 2022 – half of Twitter’s 2021 revenue – and is already generating profits as the social network struggles to find a sustainable business model. Onlyfans earns its income from subscriptions (50%), sales of content via private messages (30%), tips given to creators and paywalled content [qui nécessitent un paiement pour être débloqués, ndlr].

Although Onlyfans has made a name for itself solely by hosting erotic and pornographic content, it never mentions it in its marketing. When it was created, the company did not target this market. But its distribution of income – with a commission of only 20%, which allows creators and creators to keep 80% – and its various modules for putting content behind a paywall, have attracted sex workers.

But depending so much on porn, the Onlyfans game has been put on hold. In August 2021, the platform announced the decision to ban porn, causing widespread panic in the sector before backing down a few days later. Writing in the Financial Times, founder Tim Stokely blamed the ban on banks blocking intermediary payments, preventing creators from receiving their earnings. Since then, rumors of banishment have returned periodically: porn scares away investors, while the company considers going public.

Twitter is already a porn giant

However, despite its huge lead in its market, Onlyfans has many faults. To begin with, users of the site regularly complain about the video module and the site encounters latency issues or even unavailability in certain countries. Banned (in its uncensored version) from application stores (App Store and Google Play Store), it is only available in web version, which in turn brings its share of technical problems on certain browsers.

But the content creators are confronted above all with the poverty of the internal search engine, which is almost non-existent, with the exception of a random suggestion tab. Specifically, you need to enter the exact name of an account to find it. For creators, this means they can’t rely on Onlyfans to feature them, and they have to be known in some way to be found on the platform. They therefore circumvent this obstacle by advertising each other directly on Onlyfans or by promoting their content on other platforms starting with Reddit and Tiktok.

But it is Twitter that has established itself as a must-have for promotion since the banishment of sexual content from Tumblr in 2018. And for good reason: the social network does not censor nudity (unlike Facebook and Instagram); accounts are open, meaning anyone can see the content; and, more generally, it allows this community to organize itself. Twitter therefore had a real chance to play: most Onlyfans followers are already on its platform, it just had to give them the tools to sell their content. Better yet, the social network already has a subscription model — it Super comes with it » – in place since the end of 2021.

Yet another problem would then have arisen for Twitter: the response of advertisers, on which it depends for the overwhelming majority of its revenue. The project was therefore a double-edged sword, but it stopped earlier, due to a much bigger problem.

Detection tools too weak for a pornographic business

According to The Verge, the team responsible for reviewing the feasibility of the project determined in April 2022 that Twitter was unable to accurately and at scale detect child pornography. That’s not all: the social network would not have sufficient tools to confirm that the creators and consumers of sexual content have the majority. A spokeswoman told the US site that Twitter was investing significantly in technology and tools to combat child abuse online.

But the topic of moderating this content would recur for more than a year in the company, which would rely on outdated detection tools and would be confronted with an ever-increasing flow of images and videos. The Verge expands in detail on the shortcomings of the social network, based on an internal report.

And the problems with Twitter’s lack of porn regulation don’t end there. In France, earlier this week, several child protection associations demanded that the authorities (including the regulator, Arcom) block Twitter. Their reasoning: the platform allows the opening of an account from the age of 13 and, above all, it does not verify the age declaration.

Furthermore, the censorship (for users under 18) of pornographic content is determined by the person publishing it at the time of publication. As a result, it is very easy for a minor to access porn on Twitter. Suffice it to say, the company has a lot of points to settle (in addition to its lawsuit over Elon Musk’s takeover) before returning to the pornography market.