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TikTok Goes After Twitter By Allowing 'Adults-Only' Content

We spoke with a TikToker and OnlyFans creator about what this change could mean for the platform

Since its launch in November 2016, OnlyFans and other subscription-based clip and photo platforms have been a place to go for adult content. The service went from a relatively unknown service to a household name during the covid-19 lockdown, when a wave of folks out of work saw OnlyFans as a way to make money from home, and most adult content consumers had plenty of free time and nowhere to go. 

For creators, the freedom to create your own content comes with the task of self-marketing. As more and more services optimized their online presence during the lockdown, social media posts were getting more exposure than ever. Neither of Meta Platforms'  (META) - Get Free Report social media sites Facebook and Instagram allow nudity or sexually explicit content. And while each platform has allowances for educational materials, there are instances of the platforms being overzealous when it comes to censoring content.

Twitter, meanwhile, allows users to post and advertise adult content. Accounts that post consensual adult content simply have to mark profiles as "sensitive". The feature prevents users under a certain age (or users who just opt out) from viewing sensitive content. Recent shakeups at Twitter have made several online content creators a little nervous, but to date, adult content on Twitter is still going strong.

Last week, TikTok took a page out of Twitter's book and updated its settings to allow more options for adult content creators. We asked an OnlyFans creator and TikTok star to weigh in on the possibilities. Catie (or catieosaurus on TikTok) has more than 1.6 million followers on the app. Her content is focused on adults living with ADHD, and she also shares her experiences as an adult performer and sexual health educator.

TikTok's Policies, Guidelines, and Adult Content

TikTok's newest policy will allow creators to age-restrict their own content. According to last week's press release, "We want to empower creators to direct their content to the most appropriate audience. That's why we rolled out audience controls, as a way for creators to restrict their content to accounts over 18 in LIVE earlier this year. We've started to bring our audience controls feature to creators of short-form video and will expand the feature globally over the coming weeks." 

The statement went on to say that the new feature doesn't negate the platform's community guidelines -- meaning nudity and sexually explicit content still isn't allowed on the app. But creators whose content falls in the "gray area" may no longer have to fear the what's called the "shadowban" -- an unofficial ban the restricts an account's visibility. Under TikTok's current system, creators of sensitive content that still follow the rules find their platforms severely limited.

"As a certified sex educator and neurodivergent advocate, I've spoken a lot about the effects of ADHD & Autism on sex and intimacy on TikTok, and despite always being well within the community guidelines, I've dealt with dozens of content violations and strikes on my account, including once having it taken down entirely," Catie explained to TheStreet.

While it's a far cry from Twitter's "all's well that's consensual" content policy, its strategy to give creators more options for self-identification could change the game for sex educators. 

"I'm really interested to see how this change goes. I think it's a great step forward for people like me, who want to share knowledge and expertise in a way that better manages age limits and consenting audiences," Catie said.

TikTok's Other Policies May Get in the Way

This policy will certainly be helpful to educators who use the platform. But there's another policy TikTok could borrow from Twitter that would allow creators to be successful. 

"TikTok as a platform is also sort of a catch-22 for many people, where creators will build these massive audiences and platforms, but the minute they want to try and monetize and make content creation into a career, TikTok makes it EXTREMELY difficult to do so," Catie said.

"Promoting outside revenue streams like podcasts, Venmo, OnlyFans, YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter accounts is exceptionally difficult, and that goes double for creators making 18+ content. Many creators (including myself) use TikTok as a way of promoting their OnlyFans or other 18+ websites, and those accounts are constantly banned, shadowbanned, or suppressed," she told TheStreet. "I'm interested to see if this change will actively support educators and sex workers and their ability to make an income."