A long-simmering allegation that Facebook execs took bribes from OnlyFans is now a lawsuit that will move forward, as several OnlyFans creators say rival adult sites were literally blacklisted onto a terrorist list.
Folks who follow legal news are surely familiar with the name Judge William Alsup. He's a U.S. District Judge who’s presided over many high-profile cases: The PG&E criminal probation proceedings, the Waymo vs. Uber trial, and the 2017 Berkeley BART homeless encampment trial. But the latest case on Judge Alsup’s desk is perhaps his most bonkers yet: a trial alleging that Facebook executives took bribes from the, erm, “creator” site OnlyFans to blacklist competing adult sites, and even label those sites as “terrorist content.”
NEW: Gizmodo obtained a copy of a whistleblower report filed using Meta's public hotline last year. The claims mirror those of a lawsuit filed 6 months later alleging OnlyFans paid Meta execs to blacklist rivals & shield its creators from moderation.https://t.co/ubWWsFsrzu— dell cameron (@dellcam) October 27, 2022
The BBC originally broke this story in February, and the alleged bribes took place in 2018, well before the pandemic came and OnyFans enjoyed meteoric success because so many hot people were unemployed. It started as a lawsuit from OnlyFans rival FanCentro. "FanCentro claims the social media content of adult performers promoting rival websites to OnlyFans was placed on an international database - the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT)," the BBC reported at that time. "The database uses advanced technology to stop the spread of terrorist images by recording a unique digital signature for them, known as ‘hashes.’"
Then in October of this year, Gizmodo obtained an internal Facebook whistleblower claim saying flat out, “Certain employees are taking bribes to protect OnlyFans on the platform. This has been going on for months if not years.” That same month, Gizmodo also obtained evidence of wire transfers between OnlyFans and certain Facebook executives, which seemed to have been leaked by one of the more than 100 OnlyFans creators suing the two companies in a class action lawsuit.
Could this get even more embarrassing for Facebook and parent company Meta? It did. Also in October, OnlyFans attorneys accidentally identified the three Facebook executives accused of accepting the bribes: Meta’s vice president of global policy Nick Clegg, global business group VP Nicola Mendelsohn, and trust and safety director Cristian Perrella.
“Trust and safety,” indeed.
Meta will have to face a lawsuit alleging that its employees were bribed by the adult entertainment website OnlyFans to suppress competitor sites on Facebook and Instagram.https://t.co/hocRfSHxjR— Bloomberg Law (@BLaw) December 2, 2022
Both Facebook parent company Meta and OnlyFans filed separate motions to dismiss the suit. As Gizmodo reported Thursday, Alsup refused to dismiss the case, and the trial will go forward.
Kind of insanely, Meta’s argument was essentially to acknowledge the bribes happened, but the employees were simply going rogue, so Meta was not responsible. Alsup did not buy this.
“Meta defendants argue they are not liable for the acts of their employees who allegedly participated in the anticompetitive conduct. This order disagrees,” he wrote. “It is premature to conclude that those accepting bribes were involved in a frolic of their own so as to immunize Meta itself.”
Meta issued a statement to Bloomberg Law saying the “claims are completely false and lack a shred of evidence to back them up,” and “We’re confident we’ll win this case.” And they have highly paid attorneys, so maybe they will. But when you have 100 or so adult models suing Facebook, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “I’ll see your ass in court.”
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Image: @OnlyFansSupport via Twitter