Thursday , May 19 2022

Why an OnlyFans creator could go to jail for posting nudes

At just 22, Titus Low is one of Singapore’s most successful OnlyFans creators.

Thousands subscribe to him on the online platform where users can buy or sell original content. The site is best known for its explicit adult content, with Low himself using it to post nude photos and videos.

But in December last year, he was arrested and charged with “transmitting obscene materials” – making him the first OnlyFans creator to face prosecution in Singapore.

He could face months in jail if a court finds him guilty. He’s not yet been asked to enter a plea.

Under Singapore’s Penal Code, it is illegal to transmit any obscene materials by electronic means, or to take part in or receive profits from any business where such materials are transmitted.

“Technically speaking, [that means] it is against the law to send a nude photo of yourself, even if it is consensual,” said Mark Teng, an executive director at law firm That.Legal.

The case has caused much buzz locally and brought up new questions on what this means for local OnlyFans creators. It has also generated a wider conversation around whether such content should even be criminalised in Singapore.

The BBC has reached out to OnlyFans but has not received any response.

‘Handcuffed and put into the lockup’

Low’s journey on OnlyFans began just six months ago.

Before that, he said he had been struggling to make ends meet but the site allowed him to gain financial independence.

“In my case it’s a consensual thing between adults. So I didn’t think there was any problem [being on OnlyFans],” he told the BBC.

Police said they had received a report informing them that Low had allegedly transmitted obscene materials through his Only fans account.

He was warned not to access the account anymore, and warned a breach of this would amount to a criminal offence.

But according to police, Low regained access to his account, continued posting “obscene materials” on it, and also opened a secondary account.

Low told the BBC that he tried to get back into his account as he was dependent on it for his expenses – with the platform being his main source of income.

On 2 November, police came to his house again and seized his spare phone and his OnlyFans account again, he added.

More than a month later, on 29 December, he was told to present himself at the station.

“They told me I was going to be charged and arrested… [and] handcuffed me and put me into the lockup,” he told the BBC.

“I felt very scared and the way they treated me, it was like I had done something very bad.”

He was handed two charges – for allegedly transmitting obscene material via two OnlyFans accounts, and for failing to comply with an order not to access the account.

The first charge carries up to three months in jail, and the second up to six months in jail and a fine of S$5,000.

Titus Low
Low was handed two charges

Low’s arrest has got Singapore’s small OnlyFans creator community worried.

One local creator who goes by her username LucyToday estimates that the city-state has about 100 local creators, and said they were afraid of getting arrested too.

She adds that nobody from OnlyFans has reached out to her warning her of the possible risks of using the platform in Singapore.

LucyToday says she intends to continue using the site for now, adding she hopes “the police don’t come after me”.

Local content creators have largely appeared to have been able to produce content until a complaint is made against them, with Eugene Tan, an associate professor of law at the Singapore Management University adding that the police do not “engage in intrusive surveillance of social media platforms.”

“[But] those using the platform to produce and transmit obscene material are potentially in the crosshairs of the [authorities]. Where the authorities know of their involvement, it is a question of when, rather than whether, the law will catch up with them.”

OnlyFans logo of a content subscription service i
 

OnlyFans is known for its adult based content

This law extends not only to content on sites such as OnlyFans, but to any obscene material that is transmitted by electronic means.

“Whether anyone [transmits] by SnapChat, OnlyFans, whatever the site, it still [falls] under this section,” said Mr Teng.

However, Prof Tan adds that it is unlikely that Singapore would prosecute issues like the consensual sending of nudes.

“There is no public policy interest in prosecuting such transmission of nudes, especially by couples in an intimate relationship and where the images only involve the couple.”

So what does the future of OnlyFans look like in Singapore – and could it be legalised?

But Prof Tan suggests that this is unlikely.

“In some jurisdictions like the UK and US, the production and transmission of obscene material is not illegal…[and] often connected to freedom of speech.”

“Singapore takes [an] almost diametrically opposite view. Freedom of speech and expression does not extend to restrictions parliament regards as ‘necessary’… in the interest of ‘public order or morality’.”

The topic of sex is still one that remains largely taboo in conservative Singapore – a country where gay sex is still technically a crime and there are strict laws around sex work.

“The making, transmitting, and sharing of obscene material is widely accepted as not being in accord with moral standards and norms of Singapore,” says Prof Tan.

When asked if there were any plans for the law to be revised in future, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “The government regularly reviews our laws to ensure that they continue to serve our society’s needs.”

Looking ahead

Back in his home, Low says he will instead focus on posting on other social media sites like YouTube, until he hears back from his verdict.

If he is found guilty, he says, it would probably be a turning point for local creators.

“If the government decides to [jail] me, I think other [local OnlyFans creators] will back off… [and go] underground,” he says, adding that he may move overseas in future if this happens.

“But if they don’t then yes perhaps, there could be a future for OnlyFans creators in Singapore.”

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