Missouri Republican Behind FOSTA-SESTA Renews Attack on OnlyFans

Missouri Republican Behind FOSTA-SESTA Renews Attack on OnlyFans

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ann Wagner, the Missouri Republican legislator who was the original architect of FOSTA-SESTA, has renewed her call for federal action against OnlyFans.

A 2021 letter from Wagner to the Justice Department, asking for an investigation into OnlyFans, claimed that the platform had become “a major marketplace for buying and selling Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) in the United States, as well as soliciting sexual activity with minors.” 

Wagner’s more recent statements came in the wake of a controversial, sensationalizing Reuters report by Linda So, Andrew R.C. Marshall and Jason Szep, which cited issues with third-party content moderation on the premier fan platform. That report was based on a survey of 128 cases “in which women and men complained to U.S. law enforcement agencies that sexual content featuring them ended up on OnlyFans without their permission — and was often sold for profit — between January 2019 and November 2023.”

According to OnlyFans transparency reports, in October 2023, the platform counted approximately 37 million pieces of posted content.

Fifty-six out of 250 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. queried by Reuters “produced records in which people complained of explicit, nonconsensual posts on OnlyFans.”

Most of the 128 police complaints, the report noted, “were lodged by women against men who were former sex partners. They often said the content was produced consensually but was posted without their permission — or even their knowledge. In about 40% of the complaints, the videos also appeared on other popular social media sites, usually as snippets to promote lengthier and more explicit material for sale on OnlyFans.”

Wagner told Reuters, “‘It is absolutely unconscionable. These findings confirm what my office has known for years: Americans are being sexually exploited on OnlyFans. Congress and federal law enforcement must do more.”

The Reuters piece quotes an OnlyFans rep, who states that in “the few examples” where bad actors misused the platform, the company “removed the content swiftly, banned the user and actively supported investigations and prosecutions.”

Reuters' Controversial 'Bipartisan' Framing

Wagner’s comments are the centerpiece of the follow-up piece by the Reuters reporters, published over the weekend with the somewhat misleading headline “Citing alleged abuses on OnlyFans, lawmakers call for stronger safeguards.”

The article includes quotes by only three U.S. lawmakers, and two British lawmakers, although the original article only surveyed U.S. cases. Of the three U.S. lawmakers quoted in the piece besides Wagner, two are Democrats providing general statements that do not target OnlyFans specifically.

Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement to Reuters, “Social media platforms have become a safe harbor for predators. Rape victims — including children — are not only violated at the time of their assault, but they are victimized over and over again with the rapid spread of their abuse material online. Even worse, the platforms profit from this activity. That’s unacceptable.”

The article states that U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton, a Virginia Democrat, "called for greater accountability for perpetrators to ensure ‘we are protecting the rights and lives of all victims and survivors.’”

Both Thomson Reuters articles downplay the role of the actual perpetrators or uploaders of image-based sexual abuse and shift all the attention to the platforms and their Section 230 liability protections.

A Veteran Anti-Sex Work Crusader

“Ann has worked to defend the right to life from Nancy Pelosi and the liberal mob’s attacks,” reads Wagner’s official bio on her website. “She felt called to serve Missourians and her community, which is why she ran for Congress and won. In Congress, she has been a conservative fighter for our Christian family values.”

As XBIZ reported, in 2021, Wagner penned an editorial for congressional news site Roll Call stating her opinion that all sex work is illegal.

“With the exception of seven counties in Nevada, prostitution is strictly prohibited throughout the United States,” the Missouri Republican stated. “Even within those seven counties, prostitution is highly regulated by the state government. Across the nation, states — both red and blue — have banned the sex trade because it is known to be abusive and exploitative, and harms the most vulnerable in our society.”

The Reuters article mentions in passing that Wagner “sponsored a federal law passed in 2018 that allows victims to sue websites that knowingly host abusive commercial sex activity,” without pointing out that they’re referring to the controversial FOSTA-SESTA, which law enforcement has acknowledged has actually made it more difficult to prosecute sex crimes.

Debunking Wagner’s oft-repeated claim that FOSTA-SESTA “has had a profound impact on the illegal, online sex trade,” in June 2021 the FBI told the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that its “ability to identify and locate sex trafficking victims and perpetrators was significantly decreased following the takedown of Backpage.com” and the related passage of FOSTA-SESTA.

Main Image (right): Anti-sex work crusader Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner (R)

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