OnlyFans faces UK investigation into age-verification measures

A logo for OnlyFans is seen in this illustration picture

By Yadarisa Shabong

(Reuters) -Britain's media regulator Ofcom has opened an investigation into whether adults-only website OnlyFans is doing enough to prevent children accessing pornography on its platform, Ofcom said on Wednesday.

"Having reviewed submissions we received from OnlyFans in response to formal information requests, we have grounds to suspect the platform did not implement its age-verification measures in such a way as to sufficiently protect under-18s from pornographic material," the watchdog said.

Ofcom said it was also investigating whether OnlyFans failed to comply with its duties to provide complete and accurate information in response to statutory requests.

"OnlyFans works closely with Ofcom to implement and develop best-practices on online safety, including the use of age-assurance technology," an OnlyFans spokesperson said.

She said the UK-based company uses age-assurance provider Yoti but a coding configuration issue led to a reporting error, which stated a threshold was set to 23 years-of-age, during a period of time when it had been set to 20.

"OnlyFans discovered the reporting error and proactively amended our report to Ofcom," the spokesperson added.

The issue related to UK-based "fans" only.

A Reuters investigation published in March also focused on the website's moderation process, in this instance for adults. In more than 120 cases in the United States and 18 in Britain, women and men complained that sexually explicit content had been posted without their consent.

In response, an OnlyFans spokesperson had said that "in the few examples where bad actors have misused our platform", OnlyFans "removed the content swiftly, banned the user and actively supported investigations and prosecutions".

Ofcom gained new powers when Britain's Online Safety Act came into law last year, requiring social media companies to stop children accessing pornography and harmful content.

Under the law, Ofcom can fine companies that don't comply up to 18 million pounds ($22 million) or 10% of their global revenue, whichever is greater.

While the new law is being implemented in phases, Ofcom continues to regulate video-sharing platforms established in the UK under the pre-existing regime, which includes requiring platforms to take measures to prevent children under the age of 18 from accessing pornographic material.

($1 = 0.8010 pounds)

(Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong in Bengaluru and Jason Szep; Editing by Christina Fincher and Mark Potter)