Twitter almost got into the porn world

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

Except that the internal audit did not go as planned. The responsible team issued an unfavorable opinion due to the lack of tools on the platform to detect non-consensual content, in particular child pornography. The social network therefore put the ACM in the closet in May 2022. However, it would have enabled him to test a new, highly lucrative funding channel.

Twitter begins testing “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 (mym, fansly, etc.). Just as television saw the rise of YouTube, the porn world saw that of Onlyfans: a platform where models » manage their own business, from the production of photos, videos and messages to their promotion. Anyone can get started and several stars have taken the plunge (with more or less bare-bones content) such as rapper Bhad Babbie or actress Bella Thorne.

If Twitter has been watching 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 revenue in 2021 — 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 content under paywall [qui nécessitent un paiement pour être débloqués, ndlr].

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

But being so dependent on porn has played tricks on Onlyfans. In August 2021, the platform announced it was making the decision to ban porn, sparking widespread industry panic, before pulling back a few days later. 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 surfaced regularly: porn scares investors as the company contemplates going public.

Twitter is already a porn giant

However, despite its huge lead in its market, Onlyfans has many flaws. For starters, site users regularly complain about the video module and the site is experiencing latency or even inaccessibility issues in certain countries. Banned (in the uncensored version) from application stores (App Store and Google Play Store), it is only accessible in the web version, which again brings a lot of technical problems with certain browsers.

But most of all, the content creators are faced with the poverty of the internal search engine, which is almost non-existent except for a random suggestion tab. Specifically, you need to type the exact name of an account to find it. For creators, this means they can’t rely on Onlyfans to bring them forward, and they have to get known somehow in order to be found on the platform. They therefore get around this obstacle by advertising directly to each other on Onlyfans, or by promoting their content on other platforms, starting with Reddit and Tiktok.

But it’s Twitter that has proven itself a must-have for promotion since Tumblr’s ban on sexual content in 2018. And for good reason: the social network doesn’t censor nudes (unlike Facebook and Instagram); accounts are open, meaning anyone can view the content; and more generally it allows this community to organize itself. So Twitter had a real chance to play: most of Onlyfans’ followers are already on its platform, it just had to give them the tools to sell their content. Better, the social network already has a subscription model – the Super follows » – in use since the end of 2021.

Yet another problem for Twitter would have arisen: the reaction of advertisers, on which it depends for the majority of its revenue. So the project was a double-edged sword, but it stopped earlier because of a much bigger problem.

Detection tools too weak for a pornographic company

According to The Verge, the team responsible for verifying the project’s feasibility determined in April 2022 that Twitter was unable to accurately and widely detect child pornography. That’s not all: the social network would not have enough tools to check whether the creators and consumers of sexual content are in the majority. A spokeswoman told the US site that Twitter has made significant investments in technology and tools to combat online child abuse.

But the subject of the moderation of this content would return for more than a year in the company, which would rely on outdated detection tools, and face an ever-increasing flow of images and videos. Based on an internal report, The Verge elaborates on the shortcomings of the social network.

And the problems created by the lack of regulation of porn on Twitter don’t stop there. Earlier this week, several child protection organizations in France demanded the blocking of Twitter from the authorities (including the regulator Arcom). Their reasoning: the platform authorizes the opening of an account from the age of 13 and above all does not verify the age statement.

In addition, the censorship (for users under the age of 18) of pornographic content is determined by the person who publishes 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 still has a lot of issues to settle (besides the Elon Musk takeover lawsuit) before it returns to the porn market.