SAN FRANCISCO — Adult Performance Artists Guild board officers Alana Evans, Kelly Pierce and Ruby have filed a civil lawsuit against OnlyFans, its owner Leonid Radvinsky and Instagram’s parent company, Meta, replicating claims from an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of FanCentro and alleging a conspiracy to engage in “tortious interference with contract and intentional interference with prospective business.”
Attorney David Azar of Beverly Hills firm Milberg Coleman Bryson Grossman, who is representing the group as the first three of a class involving all adult performers and content creators, is also one of the lawyers representing FanCentro in its related action against OnlyFans.
The complaint filed by Azar on behalf of Evans, Pierce and Ruby alleges that OnlyFans is “a corrupt business” which gained “an enormous advantage over its competitors by wrongfully manipulating behind-the-scenes databases, and in the process, harming thousands of small entrepreneurs who rely on social media to promote sales of their product and earn a living.”
Like the FanCentro lawsuit, the complaint filed this week by the APAG board members claims that “up until late 2018 or early 2019, the online adult entertainment industry was a vibrant, competitive market” but that sometime after Radvinsky’s purchase of OnlyFans, performers who “had promoted competitors of OnlyFans suddenly began to experience a drop-off in traffic and user engagement on social media platforms.”
An Alleged 'Scheme to Blacklist' Some Performers
“The deletion and hiding of posts, and reduction in social media traffic for certain providers,” Evans and the others allege, “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 business lifeblood of certain [adult entertainment] providers and [adult entertainment] platforms appeared to be blocked so consistently that only automated processes could be responsible. But performers associated exclusively with OnlyFans were not affected in the same way.”
“As a result,” the plaintiffs contend, “OnlyFans began to grow incrementally, and then exponentially — rocketing up the internet traffic rankings — and quickly became one of the most dominant players in the adult industry, while most of OnlyFans’ competitors stagnated or saw dramatically reduced traffic and revenue.”
The lawsuit alleges that Evans, Pierce, Ruby and adult performers as a class were harmed because the named defendants “engaged in a scheme to cause performers who worked with competitors of OnlyFans – including Plaintiffs – to be ‘blacklisted’ by social media platforms, including social media platforms owned and operated by entities other than Meta or its subsidiaries, for the purpose of interfering with those [adult entertainment] platforms’ business and reducing competition with OnlyFans.”
Three Performers' Claims
Evans alleges that before 2019, she had over 100,000 followers on Instagram, but beginning in March 2019, she "noticed that her followers were receiving many fewer of her posts than they had previously received. She made inquiries on behalf of herself, as well as on behalf of other members of APAG, but did not receive any clear explanation of why this was happening."
“On Jan. 24, 2020,” the complaint states, “Instagram deleted Evans’ account, so that none of the content in her account could be seen, and she could not log in to make new posts. She had received no explanation for why this occurred. Following complaints to Instagram from Evans and from followers, as well as coverage in the adult entertainment trade press, the account was reinstated, but [her] reach was vastly reduced.”
The lawsuit contends that “the loss of social media reach has adversely affected Evans’ revenue, which remains lower than it had been in previous years” and that “the scheme also affected Evans by causing competitors of OnlyFans, with whom she had contractual dealings, to go out of business, thus forcing her to the OnlyFans platform.”
Like Evans, Kelly Pierce also claims that “in about 2019, [she] began to notice that her posts were reaching fewer followers, leading to fewer click-throughs to her [adult entertainment] platforms” and “received regular complaints from longtime fans that they were unable to find her posts on Instagram and Snap. In March 2021, her Instagram site was deleted in its entirety. Instagram refused to reinstate the existing site, but it permitted her to open a new promotional account after a few months. However, complaints have persisted that the new account is often not visible to her fans, and she has only 6,000 followers at her new account.”
Pierce “believes that posts promoting content at sites other than OnlyFans are especially likely to be deleted” and “as a consequence of reduced visibility on social media, Pierce has experience decreasing revenue since 2019.”
Ruby claims that “beginning in 2018, she has experienced unexplained deletions of posts on Instagram, and unexplained loss of distribution of her posts to followers, as well as reduced search engine traffic” and thus “has experienced a loss of revenue due to the loss of social media visibility.”
A Proposed Class Action Involving 'All Performers'
Like FanCentro, the three performers allege that shortly before OnlyFans’ transfer from the company's former owners, the Stokely family, to Leonid Radvinsky, “one or more of the as-yet unidentified participants in the scheme to wrongfully include [adult entertainment] providers" in the shared filtering database, "tested the scheme and prepared to implement the scheme."
The actual scheme, the lawsuit claims, was initially implemented soon after Radvinsky acquired OnlyFans in October 2018, but “it was the Stokely family that provided the link between Radvinsky and at least some of his as-yet-unidentified coconspirators and/or aiders and abettors at a major social media service.”
Also echoing the FanCentro suit, the performers allege that “there is no statistical or other benign explanation (such as better marketing) for the disproportionate classification/filtering treatment of and effects on both (i) OnlyFans’ competitors on social media platforms and (ii) [adult entertainment] providers who had ever promoted or affiliated with OnlyFans’ competitors, leaving the conclusion that it was caused by a manipulation of one or more of the individual databases (or sets of training data) that was then shared in part or in full among multiple companies,” including a database targeting terrorist organizations and affiliated individuals.
The lawsuit also seeks to define a class of plaintiffs defined as “all Adult Entertainment Providers, regardless of the label they use, such as performer, influencer or artist, who suffered economic injury because they either (i) used their Instagram or Facebook account to link to, promote or demonstrate praise, substantive support or representation of any competitor of OnlyFans at a time when those businesses were falsely designated as a Dangerous Individual or Organization ('DIO') under any past or present version of Meta’s DIO policy, or that of Facebook or Instagram or any of their predecessor or subsidiary entities or technologies, or (ii) were themselves falsely designated as a DIO; the class includes anyone who suffered damages from any shift in the scheme beyond the initial DIO tactic, such as suffering continuing effects through other computerized systems.”
An OnlyFans spokesperson told the BBC about the earlier FanCentro lawsuit that "the company was aware of the claims" and described them "as having ‘no merit.’”