Chatters aren’t necessarily better at extracting money from subscribers than a creator who manages their own inbox; in fact, they may be worse. “You should do your homework very well on who you hire,” a 29-year-old OnlyFans creator, who goes by Sonia LeBeau, told me. She has worked with agencies in the past and had negative experiences with them. At one point, the chatters hired to impersonate her did such a poor job that her most loyal subscribers realized they were being duped. She apologized to all of her followers and resumed replying to their messages herself. Still, she said, agencies can offer significant benefits, especially for large accounts. Multiple chatters can work simultaneously, and they can clock in for back-to-back shifts, ensuring no message goes unanswered. Popular accounts often receive so many messages that it would be nearly impossible for one person to reply to them all; unanswered messages mean there is money left on the table. Then there are all the other tasks required of an OnlyFans Creator, like content creation and external social media marketing, which take time to respond to DMs. Chatting eases the burden.
Chatters also offer creators a buffer of their followers, who can be rude, stingy, or worse. “Are you constantly glued to your phone negotiating prices for custom videos with hundreds of lonely, broke creeps? Sounds like fun!” reads a post on Think Expansion’s website, touting its services to models. Dallas thinks most OnlyFans models with large followings have some sort of team in their corner. “It gets overwhelming constantly creating content, promoting and maintaining 20, 30, 50+ conversations a day,” he wrote.
Around the world, however, there is a vast pool of workers willing to have these conversations, often for wages less than what Americans make flipping burgers. Back in February, I spoke on Zoom with Andre, a talker in Manila who works for a Barcelona-based OnlyFans agency called KC Incorporation. He declined to give his last name: although he finds the job satisfying, he doesn’t think his family would approve of it. Many western companies rely on outsourced workforce in the Philippines for customer service and data entry. Prior to his current role, Andre worked at a T-Mobile call center. Now he works a daily four-hour shift messaging a model’s followers. When his shift is over, he logs out of the account and another chatty logs in, picking up the conversations where he left off.
During his time as a gossip, Andre became intimately familiar with the whims and desires of subscribers. Over time, he’s learned something of a sex work cliché: More than sexual gratification, he says, a lot of guys just want someone to talk to. Facilitating these familiar conversations is good for business. “Seeing that ‘Oh, this person has been messaging me for a few weeks straight,'” he said, “we’re taking notice of these people.” André said that most of the big spenders he talks about seem pretty normal, if a bit depressed and isolated. A small minority, he said, clearly suffer from mental health issues. He is sympathetic: “The world is a lonely place. And I guess those people are the loneliest.
In fact, André sees a connection between his predicament and that of the clients. Many people who do jobs like his, he says, are poor. They have “nowhere to go” and “nothing left to do”. They are desperate: “At the end of the day, if you have to eat, you have to do what you have to do.” The people he talks to, he said, display similar desperation, although for different reasons. “If you’re alone, you don’t want to be stuck in loneliness, so you gotta do what you gotta do too.” Several gossips in Asia I spoke to said they made enough money compared to other outsourced jobs. But their income pales in comparison to the profits their work generates for agencies, which have discovered a gold mine at the crossroads of globalization and Western alienation.
Whether this is legal or not is a separate question. In November last year, two former employees of a company called Unruly Agency filed a lawsuit, alleging wage theft and wrongful dismissal. The agency runs the OnlyFans accounts of a number of Gen Z stars, including rapper Lil Pump and social media creators like Tana Mongeau. In the lawsuit, first reported by Insider, plaintiffs said managers were instructed to “lie, trick and deceive fans” by writing phantom messages on behalf of popular models, in an effort to trick them into paying for locked content or tipping. Their bosses, they claim, devised a system in which account managers would keep track of the questions fans asked the models most often. Managers would then ask the models to record a video answering each question, encouraging them to change outfits between videos to make the clips look like they were recorded on different days. The managers sent the videos to thousands of fans, each of whom expected to receive a personalized answer to a question they had specifically asked. (Unruly denied those claims.)
In the United States, fraud is generally defined as an instance in which one entity or individual knowingly deceives another in order to obtain something of value. In other words, lies by themselves are not actionable. You could certainly argue that a subscriber talking to a chatterbox is being tricked into spending money they wouldn’t otherwise spend, based on false information. But you might as well claim the opposite: the photos and videos subscribers receive are genuine depictions of naked women, even if the perceived intimacy around the sale is fake. After all, these are online sex discussions – in a post-“Catfish” world, should we really expect internet accounts to accurately represent who runs them?