In November, the ephemeral messaging service Snapchat announced the launch of a partnership with the payment processor Square that would enable users to send money through its service as easily as one sends a selfie. The news unleashed an instantaneous media frenzy: SnapCash, as the feature is called, would soon become the payment processor of the sex industry, they buzzed.

There are a number of reasons that SnapCash is never going to become the currency of the sex industry. For starters, it requires users to provide their real names and financial information — as well as birth dates and social security numbers if they receive more than $1,000 over a 30-day period — to a company that hasn’t shown much of an ability to safeguard user privacy. Less than a year ago, Snapchat settled with the Federal Trade Commission for failing to address a security issue that resulted in the exposure of 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers, and for giving people the idea that the images they send on the service completely disappear.

Your average user may assume such a risk without much thought — and research seems to suggest they likely will, extortionist “revenge porn” sites be damned. A recent survey of college students revealed that 75 percent would not change how they use the service despite the October hack that leaked of hundreds of thousands of Snapchat photos to the public.

But the threat model for a sex worker isn’t the same as the threat model for a regular user. Many forms of sex work are criminalized in the U.S., where SnapCash is available, and those that aren’t nevertheless carry a similar amount of stigma. Compartmentalization is key, and this means being able to trust the service that is asking for real names and other personally-identifying information.

But the most compelling reason is business. Banks and payment processors have made it abundantly clear that they want no business with anyone who profits from sex, and are not above freezing transactions or shutting down accounts at a moment’s notice. It’s bad business to hand your earnings to a payment processor you don’t trust — and nothing about Square recommends itself to the industry. Their terms explicitly prohibit accepting payment in connection with “adult entertainment oriented products or services (in any medium, including internet, telephone, or printed material).”

Critically, Square’s Cash offers no protection for chargebacks. In fact, when it comes to ecommerce, Square seems to be a nightmare.

And it’s an unnecessary nightmare at that, given the number of cam sites that now offer either complete or partial coverage for chargebacks. Much like MiKandi, cam sites use tokens, virtual currencies that members buy in packages and use to tip and buy on- and off-site services from cam models. This approach gives sites more control over payment disputes and enables them to pass some of that security along to cam models. In many ways, cam sites have been enabling the monetization of social media — including Snapchat — since there was a social media to monetize.

“Selling viewers access to their Snapchat by the month is increasing in popularity as a supplemental form of income for many [cam] models,” reported Victoria Joy on the sex worker-focused site Tits and Sass in mid-2014. “Customers can give a model an ‘offline tip’ for a specific amount of tokens advertised on a model’s profile page in exchange for racy Snapchats sent out on a daily basis.”

Camming has become increasingly popular in the past ten years, drawing in people from all aspects of sex commerce. There are superstars in this space (surprisingly, they aren’t porn stars), but on average camming brings in around $1,000 per week — coming well within range of an editorial salary or, as the DailyDot put it, “enough to pay their bills.”

Two types of access to Snapchat are sold by cam models: monthly, as Joy mentions, and permanent. The prices for these are all over the map, but an informal survey puts the monthly average at around 300 tokens (around $15 net for the model), while lifetime access can cost between 500 and 1,000 tokens (between $25 and $50 net).

(This might also be a good time to mention that Bitcoin is not a solution and you need to stop suggesting it like you just formulated a new alternative theory of gravity. Bitcoin is slow and volatile. Sex doesn’t like to wait for a transaction to process and no business needs a currency with a wildly fluctuating value. Don’t even get me started on those other adult-specific cryptocurrencies.)

Reality Makes Poor Linkbait

On the third week of November, while the world was speculating what the sex industry would do with SnapCash, I braced myself for the inevitable next step: Snapchat’s censorship of adult content. Because that’s what comes next. Rarely are news cycles linking a service or app with the adult industry followed by a boom for sex workers. Invariably, they’re followed by censorship.

It didn’t take long. That same week, Snapchat sent out a message to a number of popular users well-known for creating adult content on the platform. One of them, Domino Damoiselle, forwarded the e-mail she and other adult content creators received:

We’ve determined that you have been advertising the distribution of pornographic content on your public account. We don’t think distributing pornographic content is appropriate in our community so we have terminated your account.

We apologize for any inconvenience and we’re certain you’ll be able to find an audience elsewhere on the Internet 🙂

Love, Team Snapchat

Even after its late 2013 introduction of Stories, which enables users to share compilations of media publicly, Snapchat had been fairly lax about the amount of adult content being made available on the service. Like regular Snaps, Stories are ephemeral — each piece of media remains available for viewing only for 24 hours (unless, of course, recipients do something to retain that media).

Immediately after the Stories launch, lists of Snapchat users posting adult content began to proliferate online. Snapchat did nothing to stop it.

The Ephemeral Marketing Boom

Unlike cam performers and adult stars who may sell access to their usernames, Damoiselle is part of a growing group of adult content creators who are working the freemium model on Snapchat: giving away free images in order to drive people to the clubs where she was dancing. It worked in ways she didn’t expect — like Pinterest, Snapchat is a web traffic-generating behemoth.

“I would get 250,000 hits to my blog from Snapchat,” she told me when we spoke on the phone. “You don’t even share links, I’d type it on a picture, and people would just show up. The effect that it had on my business — I just started to sell panties, mainly. I could support myself just doing that from the exposure on Snapchat. It’s incredible.”

Damoiselle’s panties sell for around $60 — a price tag on par with that of porn star Aaliyah Love. (You’ll be thrilled to discover that James Deen sells underwear too — for only $12.99 a pop — but they’re not pre-worn. Come on, man, get with the program.)

Damoiselle and other adult content creators were able to enjoy the ephemeral marketing boom for well over a year, certain that they weren’t in violation of Snapchat’s terms, which said nothing about adults sharing adult content when she started. Indeed, though Snapchat tried to do some reputation control in late 2013, founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel was still making keynote jokes about the company being about sexting in the post-PC era well into 2014.

The Future of Porn Is Interaction

Not long after Damoiselle and other adult content creators began getting termination notices from Snapchat, I received an e-mail from Nick Stone, founder of SnapGirlz, a company that for the past year has worked to streamline the monetization of Snapchat and other social media for adult performers who don’t want to go the cam site route. They were moving their service to a platform nobody’s heard of called MeWe.

An update to the Snapchat Terms of Use now requires users to agree to not “Buy, sell, rent, lease, or otherwise offer in exchange for any compensation, access to your Snapchat account, Stories, Snaps, a Snapchat username, or a friend link without Snapchat’s prior written consent,” a dramatic change from the terms that were in place when SnapGirlz launched. This change is reinforced by the Snapcash guidelines, which state: “It’s not okay to buy, sell, or offer compensation for: Snaps or Stories, usernames or access to an account, adding someone as a friend.”

To date, I haven’t heard anything about Snapchat shutting down the accounts of power users who do not post adult content — even those who take money from brands to give products exposure on the platform. The money these users stand to make should once and for all put to bed the tired adage “sex sells” — six months ago, Forbes pegged the fee for a single branded Story at $30,000.

That’s right, you can surpass an average editorial salary with two Stories on Snapchat. But only if you don’t post adult content.

My guess is that these marketing companies aren’t using SnapCash to pay for those endorsements, either.

Disposable People

Without a doubt, the people most hurt by Snapchat’s recent changes are adult content creators and their fans. Much like other creatives on the app, adult content creators are devoted to their audiences and focused on creating better experiences for them. But unlike users who share safe-for-work content, adult content creators have no certainty that the community they’re building is theirs to keep. If adult content creators don’t tell their followers where else they can be found online — or if their followers don’t bother to follow them off the service — losing a Snapchat account means losing everything.

Damoiselle has over 50,000 followers on Twitter, which is nothing to scoff at, but on Snapchat, she had close to half a million. When we spoke on the phone, she mentioned another user, stripper-turned-U.K. tabloid sensation Chelsea Ferguson.

“I think Chelsea Ferguson had the most followers — something like four million on Snapchat,” she told me. On Twitter, Ferguson’s following is much smaller — 749,000 followers.

There was no warning to these users that the terms had changed and they couldn’t post adult content any longer. They were given no opportunity to let their followers know where else to find them. Their accounts were simply terminated.

“Snapchat is linked to your phone number,” Damoiselle explained. “I know a couple of girls who got a new account using their same phone numbers after being kicked off who were kicked off again very quickly. I think [Snapchat has] flagged our phone numbers.”

There are a number of work-arounds to this, but the message to adult content creators is clear: you’re not welcome to succeed. You can use Snapchat to send nudes — sexting is, after all, one of the driving forces of the app — but you must do it in private or stay off the radar and you may not noticeably benefit from it financially.

Identical (Except Maybe for the Extra Kale and Colon Hydrotherapy)

It is a sad truth that while Snapchat is based in Los Angeles, home of Porn Valley and about as far as you can get from Silicon Valley in terms of culture, they’re not that different in their coming of age than their fellow startups up north. Growing up means monetization for a startup, and adult content in a sex-negative culture that believes seeing certain parts of the human body can damage society beyond repair brings a sort of scrutiny that isn’t just bad press — it’s bad business.

I was one of those idiot Gen Xers who thought that the technology industry would change everything. I remember reading Tom Wolfe’s breathless piece at the height of the dotcom bubble and rejoicing, readily accepting the connection he’d made between the extinction of sexual shame and the new “Masters of the Universe” at Il Fornaio in Palo Alto, who were taking over the world looking like “well-pressed, well-barbered beachcombers, but beachcombers all the same.”

My naivete is both charming and deeply embarrassing. It’s been a bust and a boom since and “adult supervision” prevails at any startups with promise. Money — whether from investors or advertisers — and a permanent fear of our own elected governments, ever eager to score an easy victory, conspire to maintain the status quo. The American tech industry simply lacks the courage or the conviction necessary to challenge it.

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