A group of adult entertainers suing Meta say they were leaked new evidence of bribery—bank records that detail wire transfers from OnlyFans executives to offshore accounts for Meta executives.
A group of adult entertainers is suing Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, alleging the social media company’s higher-ups accepted bribes in exchange for throttling web traffic to adult cam sites that competed with OnlyFans. The performers submitted new evidence in California federal court to support their allegations that included what they claim are wire transfers between executives.
The entertainers, who each claim to have lost at least tens of thousands of dollars in revenue in the alleged scheme, filed a class action lawsuit in February charging Meta and OnlyFans’ parent company Fenix International with secretly colluding to help the latter dominate its competitors in the online adult entertainment industry.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup last month ruled that the plaintiffs, Dawn Dangaard, Kelly Gilbert, and Jennifer Allbaugh — whose class-action complaint is filed on behalf of “at least” 100 other individuals — had initially failed to provide the court with enough information. An amended complaint since filed includes several new exhibits, one of which allegedly contains records of wire transfers provided by an anonymous tipster, who encouraged the entertainers to “follow the money.”
The main allegation of the case accuses OnlyFans of bribing certain Meta employees to add the site’s porn industry rivals to global databases used by internet companies to identify and mitigate threats. Websites included in these repositories are often suppressed on social media. These databases allegedly include ThreatExchange, an API-based platform launched by Meta in 2015 to share “details about malware and phishing attacks,” and another established by the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a partnership between Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube aimed at preventing the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content.
According to the complaint, this resulted in a “substantial and dramatic” impact on the internet traffic of adult entertainment providers unaffiliated with OnlyFans, resulting in account takedowns and reduced visibility for entertainers that significantly reduced click-throughs on social media. Entertainers who exclusively promoted OnlyFans, meanwhile, and none of its rivals, were “unaffected by these automated takedowns and reduced traffic,” the complaint says.
A spokesperson for OnlyFans, which previously told the BBC the claims against it have “no merit,” told Gizmodo Thursday that it had “nothing further to add to our original comment.” Meta, which likewise told the BBC the claims are “without merit,” did not respond to a request for comment.
The amended complaint, filed on the 28th of last month, describes records of various wire transfers received by the performers’ lawyers via an anonymous tip titled “Follow the money.” The wire transfer records were submitted to the court under seal and the names of the Meta employees named in the suit have been redacted from public records.
Though the records of the alleged wire transfers are under seal, some details may be still be gleaned from the complaint. The memo line of one of the alleged transfers identifies several adult webcam properties, including popular websites such as LiveJasmin and Chaturbate, as well as MindGeek, the Canadian company that operates Pornhub. The transfer record is said to show a payment from Fenix International to a company called Smart Team, which the plaintiffs claim as evidence that Fenix “is paying for services associated with hurting its competitors.”
Smart Team, the complaint says, is a now-defunct company that shared the same physical address in Hong Kong as OnlyFans-parent Fenix International. The company was dissolved, according to the plaintiffs, shortly after its name appeared in their initial February complaint.
The remaining wire transfers, the complaint says, show payments “from a Smart Team account at HSBC, a Hong Kong bank, to three trust accounts at the Philippine Bank of Communication (PBCOM).” The trusts, it says, “benefit individuals with high positions at Meta.”
While the names of the Meta officials are withheld, the complaint appears to implicate three employees: A male employee who received a transfer from Smart Team to a PBCOM account opened in the name of a “minor child,” and a female employee who received “five transactions” between 2017 and 2019. Both are described as being capable of ordering “data be entered into the the Threat Exchange and/or GIFCT databases.” Additionally, a second male employee is said to have received “several transfers” in 2018 and is described as being “well-positioned to illicitly enter data,” or direct a subordinate to do so.
Other statements appear to place the employees high up in the company, describing them each using the title “executives.” The scheme, the complaint says, “necessarily required and involved officers, directors, or managing agents of Meta and its subsidiaries,” specifically with the ability to “add and/or manipulate content on one or more individual lists of dangerous organizations and individuals.” The suit further does not discount that additional actions may have been taken to penalize competitor websites to OnlyFans.
The complaint goes on to say the plaintiffs have secured testimony from a “confidential witness” with knowledge of an internal memo circulated at OnlyFans that allegedly claimed the company had a “special relationship” with Meta granting its subscribers “some protection” on social media. It further accused Meta employees of taking actions to “cover their tracks,” at one point allegedly modifying names on the company’s list of dangerous individuals and organizations (while leaving other details such as URLs and IP addresses intact).
The performers say they have retained banking experts to examine and authenticate the wire transfer documents. The experts concluded that the documents bear what courts call a “sufficient indicia of reliability,” that is, they appear genuine on face — enough so to warrant merit further inquiry, according to the filing.
Because the alleged transfers were obtained from an anonymous source, the court could rule the documents, or any of the information they contain, hearsay, and thus inadmissible. At the same time, business records can be exempted from the hearsay rule under certain conditions — at least one of which the plaintiffs appear to have met: the complaint indicates the documents are actual copies of wire transfer records containing bank routing information, and not merely a written account by someone alleging that transfers took place.
Additionally, the court may find it reasonably within the plaintiffs’ power to authenticate the documents if granted discovery and the ability to subpoena Meta and OnlyFans for additional records. Likewise, if the documents are counterfeit instead, it may find the accused are equally positioned to prove it. (The ability of defendants to challenge third-party claims is integral to the hearsay exception.)
“Plaintiffs need discovery to ascertain whether someone falsely opened accounts in the names of those Facebook executives or family members, or whether they indeed are associated with those executives,” the complaint says.
Meta, OnlyFans, and Radvinsky are accused of tortious interference with contract, intentional interference with business relationships, and violation of the unfair competition law. The plaintiffs, who estimate the combined losses for the class at over $5 million, have requested compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages, and injunctive relief such as the court deems proper.