CENSORSHIP

05.16.15 7:55 AM ET

Twitter’s Great Porn Purge of 2015: Porn Stars and XXX Companies Fear the Worst

A tech analyst claims that Twitter is about to purge up to 10 million users that post pornographic material, and porn stars and adult companies are worried it’ll hurt their bottom line.

Say it ain’t so! Don’t censor us Twitter, like all those other wildly profitable social media platforms.

According to SunTrust Robinson Humphrey tech analyst Robert Peck, Twitter is preparing to purge an estimated 10 million porn-posting users. Ditching such a large chunk of users sounds drastic until you do the math: Twitter claims to have 302 million monthly users, so getting rid of the explicit posters will only account for about 3 percent of its total—although that’s just counting the users and not their followers. Twitter is a one-stop shop for all your media needs, whether you want to catch up on news, message a celeb in real time, or browse explicit images posted by adult stars. Purging the porn will surely upset millions of users, and would certainly put a dent in Twitter’s hip freedom of speech reputation.

Social media has altered the way fans interact with porn stars—arguably none to the degree Twitter has. Fans have real-time direct access to their favorite performers. “Twitter is one of the few large social media platforms that doesn’t apply a lot of censorship rules to our images so by default it’s a network tool in the adult industry,” says adult actress Mercedes Carrera.

Like many others, Carrera is worried about the types of changes recent headlines might encourage Twitter to make. One week after Twitter’s revenue forecast was reported to be below expectations and deemed a “nightmare earnings scenario,” Nielsen, a global television and digital data company, pulled its advertising campaign after discovering paid promoted tweets on pornography-associated pages. “I don’t think adult content is the reason Twitter’s stock plummeted but adult content is always an easy scapegoat in society, always,” says Carrera.

A Twitter spokesperson told Adweek they “are committed to providing a safe environment for brands to build their business, and our product team is working to fix the issue.” But what will this mean for those who post explicit media? How the company intends to fix the issue is a growing concern within the adult industry, which has in many ways come to rely on Twitter for advertising of their own. Unlike Nielsen’s paid ads, adult performers and companies generate no direct revenue but they do provide a targeted audience to sell to.

Some might argue that users don’t need to post explicit content, but for some companies working to lure in an audience, it is essential. Producer/director Glenn King of MeanBitch Productions acknowledges the value of connecting companies and entertainers with targeted consumers, but also the need to clearly define his product. “I need to differentiate my product from others because there are lots of people in my industry that don’t do full nudity, so I have to show that when you go to meanbitches.com you're getting the fully explicit content. That’s part of my marketing,” says King.

If done properly, sexually explicit content doesn’t seem to violate any terms of service just yet.

According to Twitter’s Media Policy, their “goal is to provide a service that allows you to discover and receive content from sources that interest you as well as to easily share your content with others. We also want you to understand our guidelines for making sure your content is labeled appropriately.”

And just in case you're not sure how to label appropriately, it goes on to say, “For the most part, using common sense won’t steer you wrong.” People uploading naughty stuff know what they’re doing. Which is presumably OK so long as you abide by this “common sense” rule: “If you upload media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting ‘Mark my media as containing sensitive content.’ We do not mediate content. All content should be marked appropriately as per our guidelines.”

The problem is many people do not mark their content appropriately.

Incidentally, Twitter Rules about graphic content seem to have few limitations in terms of uploaded media, stating only that users “may not use pornographic or excessively violent media in your profile image, header image, or background image”—which circles back to their policy about not mediating content, and, in my opinion, promoting freedoms few social media institutions bother with.

I applaud Twitter for being a free speech zone, previously unafraid of whatever its filthy-minded user base might post. You don’t like porn on your timeline? Don’t follow porn stars. That’s what sets Twitter apart.

AVN award winner Missy Martinez has 425,000 followers and her profile clearly states 18+ ONLY. “Twitter is a very big marketing and promotional tool for my career. It’s one of the only social media outlets I use, Instagram being second, and my fan base relies on it for up to date information on my current projects, releases and appearances,” says Martinez. Hoping Twitter will give accounts like hers a chance to comply with potential new guidelines, she says, “I, for one, would be extremely upset if my account was deleted. Twitter has become a part of my life and I would be sad to see it deleted in the blink of an eye.”

Fans have come to expect more in the information age. In an oversaturated market, it’s important to become a relatable person in addition to selling a brand—which makes Twitter one of adult performers’ favorite media outlets. “I like that Twitter has made me a real person to these people where otherwise I would just be the girl fucking on film. Porn is a big part of life, whether you want to agree with that or not, and that includes social media,” says starlet Leya Falcon. “To block my freedom of expression and not be able to show the world what I am doing when I was previously able to post anything without fear of being kicked off? That’s going to hurt.”

Naughty photos are frequently used as incentives, encouraging fans to follow adult performers (followers are frequently thought of as potential paying website members). To keep fans from feeling used, posts asking them to buy something have to be peppered with more personalized content. And when it comes to selling sex, well, visual aids are a must. “Today’s porn star is an interactive one, even a webcam girl can get Internet fame just by having Twitter,” says adult actress Alex Chance. “It’s a completely different age of the porn star. Fans tweet us now. There is no other free way to interact with them to get them to pay for things.”

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In some ways, it’s a perfect storm of opportunity.

“If you had a magazine ten years ago that you could guarantee was in front of 300,000 males ages 18-45, advertisers would be willing to pay,” says porn director Glenn King. “And now you have these porn stars who have 300,000 dedicated followers and can put an advertisement in front of them. If I was Twitter I’d be looking for a way to sell advertising in those situations and compensating the girls for delivering messages to their audience.”

Only time will tell what Twitter intends to do. There’s been no official word yet from the company regarding the speculations of Peck, though many in porn fear the worst. “I don't want to sound cynical, but because money talks they’re going to do whatever whoever is paying them the most wants them to do,” says Falcon.

As a Twitter loyalist, my faith is blindly placed. So please, Twitter, remain the bold company that has earned the respect of its users and free speech advocates. Don’t fall in with the pack—lead it. And to the users, I implore you: If you post explicit content please mark it as such. We have to hold ourselves accountable if we want our social media to remain uncensored. With freedom comes the cost of personal responsibility, a price we should all happily pay.