For those unaware, OnlyFans is a social media platform that allows users to post ‘intimate’ content to their subscriber-base, often behind a paywall, growing hugely in popularity among influencers and sex workers since its launch in 2016.
News of a leak or ‘cyber attack’ first emerged on Thursday, February 27, with a surge of tweets linking to an alleged database of 1.6TB worth of pornographic images, predominantly from female creators. The data dump has since confirmed to be real, but it wasn’t as a result of a hack.
Scottish journalist Vonny LeClerc was one of the first to highlight news of the leak, writing after some digging: ‘Have the image dump, it’s real I’m afraid. Not everything, but there are names attached to very intimate videos… appears to be over 1.5TB of data as far as I can see.’
The impact of LeClerc’s tweets was fairly immediate – not necessarily for all the right reasons. More links started to circulate allegedly linking to the host of the stolen media, with hundreds echoing a similar smug sentiment of: ‘Hit me up if you want the OnlyFans leak.’ The quick, rational hypothesis was that a hack had taken place, but OnlyFans has denied any such cyber-attack.
Steve Pymm, head of marketing at OnlyFans, told Vice’s Motherboard: ‘We have investigated claims of a site-wide hack and found no evidence of any breach of our systems. The content contained in the supposed leak seems to be curated from multiple sources, including other social media applications.
While it’s unclear who originally curated the leak, it appears that groups of people have been able to harvest and build a huge collection of creators’ sensitive content due to some glaring security holes in OnlyFans’ infrastructure (such as allowing screen-recording and screenshots, etc), as well as the tenacious, immoral slant of the thieves responsible.
Purportedly allowing its creators to control their content and share it with reliable revenue.
However, as LeClerc told BuzzFeed News:
Lots of people who use [OnlyFans] rely on this as a revenue stream. Younger people, trans and nonbinary people, disabled people, people who may not have the easiest access to traditional employment.
If gives anyone a means of making paywall-protected adult content. But clearly, it offers zero protection for creators, whose content can be bought and then freely distributed onwards.
The leak reportedly contains videos and photos from TikTok stars, Instagram models, and amateur porn stars – who are being deprived of income due to the increasingly ubiquitous nature of their content.