TikTok to Compete with OnlyFans

In an effort to graduate with its teen-and-twenty-something users, TikTok has revealed plans to offer creators of livestreams and loops "adults-only" options. But it isn't for porn. 

In an announcement on Monday, the Chinese-owned social media platform shared news that it intends to soon allow content creators to flag their content restricted for ages 18 and older, signaling an interest in supporting more risqué videos. But ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, was quick to point out there is no change in its community guidelines restricting pornographic and sexually explicit material on the app.

"All content, even if designated as better suited for those over 18, must adhere to our community guidelines. With regards to moderation, it's the same as all content on TikTok. We leverage a combination of people and technology to enforce our Community Guidelines which apply to everyone and everything on the platform."

- TikTok spokesperson to Gizmodo

The caveat was insufficient to quell the predictably uproarious response from the Internet intelligentsia. Twitter user @goonstarsss reflected that "[TikTok videos] are sometimes better than porn," showing just how meaningless community guidelines can be with some creativity. Redditor u/Lord_Erie lamented that "the [pedophiles] are back in full force." Defenders were quick to reassure that this "adults-only" flag was purely optional, and the platform would continue to be used as it has to-date.

Yet, as CBS reports, restricting live-streams to adult-only creators and viewers, TikTok is effectively entering the adult programming space, currently dominated by seedy sites, porn producers, and, of course, the meat market that is OnlyFans. Users who are 18 and older will be able to "send and receive tips," allowing producers of racy content to earn gratuities. Considering OnlyFans creators earned $3.9 Billion in 2021, it's unsurprising that TikTok wants a piece of that action.

TikTok has been embroiled in widespread controversy since its introduction to the United States market in 2017. From lawsuits over traumatic and disturbing videos to rampant political disinformation reminiscent of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, TikTok has been under constant scrutiny given its close ties and suspected collaboration with the Chinese Communist Party. YouTube creator Moon presents the case in an online video:

TikTok was previously banned in the U.S. (and may be banned again) on national security grounds for surveilling users (including privacy violations of children and tracking the geolocation of U.S. citizens which it denies). In its return to the American market, TikTok separated its U.S. and China operations and may even sell its Chinese interests later this year. But moves like entering the adult-only space may complicate TikTok's rehabilitation in the eyes of policymakers in the west.