Patreon CEO Jack Conte responds to criticism from adult-content creators

26 Oct 2017

Jack Conte speaking at a TED event in 2017. Image: Bret Hartman/Flickr

Jack Conte’s letter comes after outcry from adult-content creators using Patreon to earn money.

Patreon is a true crowdfunding success story, with a simple aim to get artists paid. However, recently there has been anger from the community of independent adult-content creators around new restrictions on pornography creation published by the site.

Yesterday (25 October), the BBC reported that dozens of content creators signed an open letter saying: “We know people who would be homeless if it wasn’t for making porn on Patreon – and it’s not a small number.

“Your fuzzy position on ‘adult content’ versus ‘porn’ gives you the freedom to discriminate at will and it makes content creators live in fear of that discrimination, itself leading to self-censorship of important viewpoints.”

New guidelines from Patreon

The newly expanded adult-content guidelines say: “You can’t use Patreon to raise funds in order to produce pornographic material such as maintaining a website, funding the production of movies or providing a private webcam session.”

They also explicitly ban “fringe sexual fetish content such as incest, necrophilia or fetish content that is hard to distinguish from non-consensual sex”.

Previous to the addition of the new guidelines, the wording around adult content on Patreon was less specific and simply said: “Patreon is not for pornography, but some of the world’s most beautiful and historically significant art depicts nudity and sexual expression.”

It also said that “suggestive imagery” was allowed if it was marked as NSFW (not safe for work).

The company’s head of legal affairs, Colin Sullivan, wrote last week that the firm wanted to outline a “clearer stance on some fringe adult content”.

A response from Jack Conte

Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon, wrote a lengthy statement about the new guidelines in response to the criticism for indie pornographers.

He said: “Nothing has changed except our stance on four areas of content: bestiality, incest, sexual depiction of minors and suggestive sexual violence.” He also said the way the trust and safety team is evaluating content has not changed, but guidelines were now longer as creators had requested more specificity.

Conte continued to stress that Patreon has never allowed pornography or sexual services on the site. He said that the company’s use of the term ‘R-rated content’ was ineffective when it came to explaining the company policy. The community guidelines explain that if existing pages have content that could fall into one of the four affected areas, a trust and safety team member will liaise with them and pledges will be paused unless the content is removed.

Conte added: “Suspension may still seem harsh  –  I totally understand that perspective  –  but in the case of a policy violation, it gives the creator a chance to talk with a team member and get their page back up and running.”

He said that the content evaluations would be on a case-by-case basis and sweeping generalisations would be avoided by Patreon staff, but the new guidelines were in place to protect the safety of users and creators alike as well as preventing potential exploitation of individuals for content purposes.

He added that most creators on the site “have nothing to be concerned about”.

Jack Conte speaking at a TED event in 2017. Image: Bret Hartman/TED Conference/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects