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British Regulator Investigates OnlyFans for Age-Verification

Photo : Reuters

Ofcom, the media regulator in Britain, has initiated an investigation into OnlyFans, an adults-only website, to assess its efforts in safeguarding minors from accessing explicit content on its platform. This inquiry comes amid concerns raised regarding the adequacy of OnlyFans' age-verification measures. Ofcom expressed suspicion that the platform may have failed to effectively implement these measures, thus potentially exposing under-18s to pornographic material.

The investigation was prompted by Ofcom's review of submissions provided by OnlyFans in response to formal information requests. According to the watchdog, there are grounds to believe that OnlyFans' age-verification mechanisms may not have been robust enough to adequately shield minors from accessing adult content. Additionally, Ofcom is probing whether OnlyFans complied with its obligation to furnish accurate and comprehensive information in response to statutory inquiries.

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In response to these allegations, a spokesperson for OnlyFans emphasized the platform's commitment to online safety and highlighted its collaboration with Ofcom to implement best practices, including the utilization of age-assurance technology provided by Yoti. However, a coding configuration error led to a reporting discrepancy, where the age threshold was mistakenly set to 23 instead of 20 for UK-based users. OnlyFans promptly rectified this error upon discovery and updated its report to Ofcom accordingly.

The issue primarily pertains to UK-based users of the platform. Apart from age-verification concerns, OnlyFans has faced scrutiny over its content moderation practices. A Reuters investigation revealed instances where sexually explicit content was uploaded without the consent of individuals, prompting criticism. In response, OnlyFans asserted its commitment to swiftly removing such content, banning offending users, and supporting investigations and legal actions against them.

Ofcom's investigation into OnlyFans comes in the wake of the implementation of Britain's Online Safety Act, which grants the regulator enhanced powers to regulate online platforms. The legislation mandates social media companies to prevent minors from accessing harmful content, including pornography. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in substantial fines, with Ofcom empowered to impose penalties of up to £18 million or 10% of a company's global revenue, whichever is greater.

While the Online Safety Act is being phased in, Ofcom continues to regulate video-sharing platforms established in the UK under existing frameworks. This includes enforcing measures to prevent individuals under the age of 18 from accessing explicit material, reflecting the government's ongoing efforts to enhance online safety standards and protect vulnerable users.

May 2, 2024 10:59 a.m. 6396

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