Sext no more: As Snapchat strikes big partnerships, there are some creators it wants nothing to do with: Porn stars

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Last November, Snapchat, like so many other heavy hitters in tech, decided to leap into the payments space.

Powered by Square, “Snapcash” allowed users to transmit payments between one another by simply adding a debit card to their app profile and then texting a dollar amount. At the time, the Internet thinkpiece machine went into full effect, as content-hounds murmured “money…” and “millennials…” into their computer boxes and let their fingers do the rest.

But the most fascinating take came from Joseph Viney, who writes for the adult lifestyle site BaDoink. He argued that the ephemeral nature of Snapchat’s disappearing images made it a perfect medium for porn stars. We now know that Snapchat’s “sexting app” narrative was more meme than reality, but it doesn’t change the fact that sexting is still a killer use case for the platform. And by directly integrating a secure payment option — the security of the payments is handled by Square, not Snapchat, thankfully — it appeared to make it easier and safer than ever for adult content creators and consumers to process porn-for-pay transactions. No one wants to enter their credit card number into hot-bukkake-sex-party-dot-com.

Viney made a strong argument, but I was nevertheless skeptical that Snapchat would become the holy land for porn stars to get paid. The ephemerality argument is dead-on-arrival considering users can screenshot anything. Even videos can be recovered. And because these interactions take place with porn stars, not real-life acquaintances, there’s little social risk for doing so. Snapcash also requires users to submit a social security number if they receive over $ 1000 in 30 days — an inconvenience many porn stars will gladly tolerate, but an inconvenience nonetheless. And finally, the number one rule of Internet content, porn or otherwise, is Nobody. Pays. For. Anything.

Turns out I was half-right. Indeed, Snapchat isn’t going to save the porn industry — but not for the reasons I thought.

In an article at the adult app store Mikandi (that article page is SFW, but the homepage isn’t), A.V. Flox writes that, rather than invigorating the porn industry, Snapcash has threatened to kill it:

On the third week of November, while the world was speculating what the sex industry would do with SnapCash, I braced myself for the inevitable next step: Snapchat’s censorship of adult content. Because that’s what comes next. Rarely are news cycles linking a service or app with the adult industry followed by a boom for sex workers. Invariably, they’re followed by censorship.

It didn’t take long. That same week, Snapchat sent out a message to a number of popular users well-known for creating adult content on the platform:

‘We’ve determined that you have been advertising the distribution of pornographic content on your public account. We don’t think distributing pornographic content is appropriate in our community so we have terminated your account.’

The message was clear: Like so many other tech firms, from Google to Facebook, Snapchat was taking a stand against pornography, terminating the offending accounts at will. According to Flox, the banned users included popular webcam model Domino Damoiselle, who had close to a half a million Snapchat followers. Snapchat’s casting off of its “sexting app” identity was complete.

But it wasn’t the scandalous content alone that caught Snapchat’s eye. Specifically, Snapchat targeted porn stars who had used Snapcash or third-party platforms to charge money for snaps. Shortly after announcing Snapcash, the company updated its terms and conditions, adding the following to its list of prohibited uses:

Buy, sell, rent, lease, or otherwise offer in exchange for any compensation, access to your Snapchat account, Stories, Snaps, a Snapchat username, or a friend link without Snapchat’s prior written consent.

There’s a sense of irony to this update, considering that every recent move by Snapchat is designed precisely to let people to make money off Snaps, from advertisers to publishers. It’s that “without Snapchat’s prior written consent” clause that matters. Snapchat wants to make sure it gets a cut.

But that’s not the only reason Snapchat has been terminating adult-themed accounts, particularly those looking to monetize. Again and again, well-capitalized Silicon Valley firms have sought to distance themselves from adult creators, like when Google recently banned adult ads under pressure from the family values (read: conservative) group “Morality in Media.” That Snapchat is located 400 miles South in Los Angeles — the porn capital of the world, mind you — has done little to weaken its antipathy toward adult content. And despite that media-fueled “sexting” narrative, Snapchat has even more reason than most to crack down on porn — its bread-and-butter audience is made up of 13-18 year olds.

As with other big tech platforms, Snapchat is obviously within its rights to police content however it sees fit. And to some, porn stars may not be the most sympathetic of martyrs. But it’s worth noting that the largest beneficiaries in the adult industry of Snapchat’s functionality are so-called “cam girls,” who in the privacy of their own home perform on camera for users. Of all the wildly popular porn verticals, this is inarguably the safest and least exploitative for performers.

But regardless of your views on adult content, Snapchat’s ban on monetizing adult content, even as it demands huge dollar amounts for big-name advertisers, shows that the company is firmly embracing the new culture of the web, where independent creators suffer while brands and institutions thrive.

PandoDaily

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