Online Adult Entertainers Take Aim at Facebook, Instagram and Others Over Conspiracy to Throttle Traffic

Three women, members of the Adult Performance Artists Guild, have sued several foreign entities including Fenix Internet, Meta Platforms Inc., Instagram LLC, and dozens of unknown defendants, over allegations that they orchestrated a scheme to reduce competition in the online adult entertainment market to favor the website OnlyFans.

According to Wednesday’s complaint, the plaintiffs and putative class members are performers in the online adult entertainment business who provide content to websites. The complaint describes the online adult entertainment industry as a “vibrant, competitive market” until late 2018 or early 2019.

Thereafter, adult entertainers who promoted OnlyFans competitors experienced a drop in traffic and user engagement on social media platforms. “The deletion and hiding of posts, and reduction in social media traffic for certain providers, started to occur suddenly and was so substantial and so dramatic that it could not have been the result of filtering by human reviewers of social media content,” the complaint says.

The plaintiffs blame automated processes for the abrupt decline in traffic, pointing to blacklisting, a process through which social media platforms suspend or delete accounts or reduce their visibility.

The complaint explains that Facebook and Instagram accomplish blacklisting using “automated classifiers or filters, which were then submitted to a shared industry database of ‘hashes,’ or unique digital fingerprints.” One such database is the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), reportedly created in 2016 by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube. According to the filing, it allows online platforms to easily identify and remove content produced by terrorists or other dangerous individuals and organizations to curb the spread of violent extremism online.

The plaintiffs claim that they were unfairly misclassified in one or more shared hash databases, causing their social media traffic to tank while OnlyFans’ popularity skyrocketed, quickly turning it into “one of the most dominant players in the adult industry.” They further allege that the conspiracy was “intended to destroy” adult entertainment platforms’ businesses, and either destroy adult entertainers’ livelihoods or force the entertainers to work exclusively with OnlyFans.

The lawsuit seeks redress for the lost online traffic and in turn, the lost revenue, the class of adult entertainers allegedly experienced. The complaint states claims for relief from tortious interference with contract, intentional interference with business relations, and violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law.

The plaintiffs are represented by Milberg Coleman Bryson Phillips Grossman PLLC.