Chatters aren’t necessarily better at extracting money from subscribers than a creator who handles her own inbox; in fact, they can be worse. “You should do your homework very well about 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, chatters hired to impersonate her did such a poor job that her most loyal subscribers realized they were being fooled. She apologized to all her subscribers and resumed answering their messages herself. Still, she said, agencies can provide significant benefits, especially for large accounts. Multiple chatters can work simultaneously, and they can clock in for consecutive shifts, making sure no message goes unanswered. Popular accounts often receive so many messages that answering them all would be nearly impossible for one person; unanswered messages mean money left on the table. Then there’s all the other tasks required of an OnlyFans creator, like actually creating content and external marketing on social media, all of which take away time from answering DMs. Chatters relieve the burden.
Chatters also offer creators a buffer from their subscribers, who can be rude, stingy or worse. “Are you constantly glued to your phone negotiating pricing for custom videos with hundreds of broke, lonely creeps? Sounds fun!” reads a post on Think Expansion’s website, touting its services to models. Dallas believes that most OnlyFans models with large followings have some kind of team in their corner. “It becomes overwhelming consistently creating content, promoting and maintaining 20, 30, 50+ conversations daily,” he wrote.
Around the world, though, there is a vast pool of workers willing to have those conversations, often for wages lower than what Americans make flipping burgers. In February, I spoke on Zoom with Andre, a chatter in Manila who works for a Barcelona-based OnlyFans agency called K.C. Incorporation. He declined to provide his last name: Although he finds the job fulfilling, he doesn’t think his family would approve. Many Western companies rely on outsourced labor in the Philippines for customer service and data entry — before his current role, Andre worked in a T-Mobile call center. Now he works a daily four-hour shift messaging a model’s subscribers. When his shift is over, he signs out of the account and another chatter logs on, picking up conversations where he left off.
During his stint as a chatter, Andre has become intimately familiar with the quirks and desires of the subscribers. Over time, he’s learned something of a sex-work cliché: More than sexual gratification, he said, many of the guys just want someone to talk to. Facilitating those familiar conversations is good for business. “Seeing that ‘Oh, this person’s been messaging me for a couple of weeks straight,’” he said, “we take note of those people.” Andre said that most of the big spenders he talks to seem pretty normal, if a little depressed and isolated. A small minority, he said, clearly suffer from mental-health issues. He’s sympathetic: “The world’s a lonely place. And I guess these people are the loneliest ones.”
In fact, Andre sees a connection between his predicament and the customers’. Many people doing jobs like his, he said, are poor. They have “nowhere else to go” and “nothing left to do.” They’re desperate: “At the end of the day, if you got to eat, you gotta do what you gotta do.” The people he chats with, he said, display a similar desperation, if for different reasons. “If you’re lonely, you don’t want to be stuck being lonely, then you gotta do what you gotta do as well.” Several chatters in Asia who I talked to said they made pretty good money relative to other outsourced jobs. But their income is minuscule compared with the profits their work generates for the agencies, which have discovered a gold mine at the intersection of globalization and Western alienation.
Whether it’s legal or not is a separate question. In November of last year, two ex-employees of a company called Unruly Agency sued, claiming wage theft and wrongful termination. The agency manages OnlyFans accounts for a number of Gen-Z stars, including the rapper Lil Pump and social media creators like Tana Mongeau. In the lawsuit, first reported by Insider, the complainants said that managers were instructed to “lie to, dupe and mislead fans” by ghostwriting messages on behalf of popular models, with the goal of getting them to pay for locked content or leave tips. Their bosses, they claim, came up with a system in which account managers would keep track of which questions fans asked models most often. The managers would then ask the models to record a video answering each question, encouraging them to change outfits between videos to make the clips seem as if they were recorded on different days. The managers would send the videos to thousands of fans, each of whom would think they were receiving a personalized response to a question they had specifically asked. (Unruly has denied these claims.)
In the United States, fraud is typically defined as an instance in which an entity or individual knowingly deceives another in order to gain something of value. In other words, lies on their own are not actionable. You could certainly argue that a subscriber talking to a chatter is being induced to spend money he would not otherwise, based on false information. But you could just as easily argue the opposite: The photos and videos the subscribers receive are genuine depictions of nude women, even if the perceived intimacy around the sale is false. This is online sex chatting, after all — in a post-“Catfish” world, should anyone really expect that internet accounts truthfully represent who is running them?