In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Representative Paul Gosar demanded that the Department of Justice investigate OnlyFans for breaking sex trafficking legislation.
In the letter, Representative Gosar suggested that OnlyFans, where users can upload sexually explicit video and images to paying customers, should be investigated under the 1910 Mann Act, which bans “interstate transportation of an individual for an immoral, or illegal purpose.” The letter notes that OnlyFans operates across state lines, and “while probably immunized from tort under Section 230, does appear to facilitate and even encourage interstate travel of the sort directly targeted by the Mann Act”:
On this site, individuals can advertise their willingness to travel across state lines for illegal or immoral activity, and the platform providing publicity for these individuals appears to subsidize and capitalize off this travel. It is worth investigating this issue further, given the volume of activity on this site and anecdotal reports about prostitution, child exploitative material, and illict sexual coercion.
Perhaps [the Department of Justice] could consider opening an investigation into this troubling website. The protection of vulnerable people from coercion of illegal or immoral sexual activity should be a priority of your department, and online platforms should not be immunized from accountability.
Today I’m writing the U.S. Attorney General requesting an investigation into @OnlyFans for promoting, and profiting from, online prostitution. I encourage @TheJusticeDept to vigorously protect vulnerable people from platforms that promote coercive immoral and sexual activity.
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) April 1, 2021
OnlyFans boomed in popularity during the pandemic, as many women turned to the online platform to make money while employment in many other areas had dried up. It has received serious criticism from many on both the right and left, due to the predatory nature of its sign up system – anyone who refers a new user gets a percentage of their earnings, incentivising the recruitment of as many people onto the site as possible.
“Women on OnlyFans have a vested interest in gloating about how great the site is,” highlighted conservative commentator Ashley Goldenberg, “because they make money off you.” Julie Bindel, the feminist author, said that OnlyFans is both prostitution and pornography. “It is part of the new wave of software platforms and business models which are extending the reach of the porn industry,” she said, attacking claims that it is somehow “empowering” for women.
The letter from Gosar also attacked the Department of Justice for previous “dubious” implementations of the Mann Act, highlighting the cases of boxing legend Jack Johnson and film star Charlie Chaplin, who both faced investigations under the act for political reasons. “These dubious prosecutions have tended to backfire on the department,” the letter adds, noting that the Mann Act was “often used a predicate in elaborate extortion schemes… [which were] worse than the prostitution it sought to suppress.”
National File reported this week that Representative Matt Gaetz slammed allegations of sex trafficking against him as being part of an “organised criminal extortion scheme” against his family “for $25 million… [by an ex-Department of Justice employee] in exchange for making this case go away.” The Representative from Florida provided screenshots of text messages, emails and documents detailing the scheme to Axios, and added that he had in fact been working with the FBI on the case for weeks, and that he was not the target “but the subject of an investigation regarding sexual conduct with women.”