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The Algorithm That Hunts the Web for Stolen Adult Content

It can be nearly impossible for adult creators to get their leaked content taken down. Can a new service that trawls the internet for stolen porn help?

OnlyFans, Chaturbate, MyFreeCams and a host of other adult content platforms say they work to defend their creators from copyright infringement by pursuing takedowns of stolen content or helping them take legal action. But as the overwhelming volume of leak sites, subreddits and forums devoted to distributing stolen content suggests, they aren’t doing a very good job of it. In February 2020, for example, OnlyFans reported that users had stolen and distributed at least 1.6TB of content (the equivalent of over 750 hours of video or 375,000 photos), and reports of major leaks have only grown since.  

This leaves creators to deal with copyright matters on their own. It’s no easy task — for every ThotHub or DirtyShip-style site that gets taken down, a dozen more crop up in their wake. Worse, if you’re a creator with a high subscriber count, tracking down all of your stolen content and pursuing a takedown for each leak can become a full-time job. In some cases, it even requires expensive legal aid. 

According to Alison Stevenson, a comedian whose OnlyFans content was leaked to a private message board, it can be overwhelming to even consider pursuing takedowns on your own. “I looked into filing a DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] takedown, but it costs a lot of money,” she tells me. “I didn’t even have access to the site where I thought my content was leaked.”

Some online services will manage the takedown for around $199, but more complicated cases may necessitate hiring a lawyer for much more. Again, it’s possible to do it all yourself, but that requires knowing exactly who leaked your content and where it’s hosted, writing and sharing the notice and contacting Google to remove the listing. All of this takes time and energy, and it can be months before any actual action is taken. The process also needs to be repeated for every single case of infringement. 

Because of these challenges, an increasing number of creators are hiring algorithms like Rulta to do the work for them instead. 

Rulta is an Estonian startup responsible for more than two million copyright infringement requests since their inception in 2018. With each, Rulta either contacts the culprit directly for a takedown or submits it to Google, who then takes the listing off of their search results so it can no longer be organically found. Currently, 742 creators use Rulta, the majority of whom produce adult content on OnlyFans, Pornhub, ManyVids and MyFreeCams (though they do have some SFW clients, as well). 

Copyright laws aren’t as respected as they should be,” says Kerem, a member of Rulta’s support services team who didn’t offer his last name. “Many websites don’t follow the copyright acts. Although it’s easy for an individual to send a DMCA notice to the website, it’s time-consuming and not very effective to look through the web and Google to find pirated content.”

Meanwhile, Rulta utilizes an automated crawler-based service that scans websites, Google results and social media for content based on specific keywords. When a creator hires Rulta, their name and various associated terms — like “OnlyFans” or “nude” — are added to the crawler. If the algorithm finds a result with photo or video content containing these terms on a leak site or subreddit, Rulta’s team automatically issues a notice to the website that threatens legal action if it doesn’t take the content down. 

“Apart from websites, we also search through Google search results,” continues Kerem. “Since Rulta is a member of Google’s Trusted Copyright Removal Program, Google issues our submissions quickly.” 

Rulta is one of 27,234 organizations that work with Google directly to take down copyrighted content. One benefit to membership in Google’s program is that all of the takedowns are publicly recorded. Per Google’s transparency report, the majority of the leak sites hit with takedown requests are camgirl-related — is the top culprit, with over 85,000 requests, followed by dozens more with similar names. The transparency report also lists the primary owners of the material being infringed. Camgirl Charisssma has experienced the most leaks, with 26,745 takedown requests for her work alone. Pornstars Abigail Mac, Ellie Leen and Mary Moody have over 20,000 each, too. 

So far, Rulta has made requests to 1,133 different sites, 46.7 percent of which resulted in a total removal of the leaked content. About a third of the time, the content gets delisted from Google and is therefore unsearchable. Only 4.2 percent of the requests Rulta sends result in no action being taken. “It’s pretty decent,” says Stevenson. “It’s the most fair price compared to similar sites, and their customer service usually responds pretty quickly. It’s nice to just feel on top of it.”

But while the price may be fair, it’s not exactly cheap. Rulta charges $54 a month for its most basic membership, which includes one takedown request per day and doesn’t scan social media or tube sites. For a much heftier $324 per month, users can send unlimited takedown requests and scans of social media — including Reddit — as well as tube sites. Still, many creators on Reddit and Twitter report that it’s well worth it.

“Please use Rulta,” urged another redditor. “It’s a lot cheaper than going out and finding a lawyer who specializes in helping those who have had copyrighted content stolen and distributed.”

“I pay Rulta and it’s worth the money 100 percent,” writes u/Liz_XO_ in a post about stolen content on r/onlyfansadvice. “I wouldn’t rely on OnlyFans to do it for you. They’re too slow to react.” 

To that end, Rulta’s existence points to the inadequacies of OnlyFans and other cam sites when it comes to protecting their creators. These leaks aren’t only an invasion of creators’ privacy and security, they also cut into the profits of both the creators and the sites they give a cut of their earnings to. Most frustratingly, it’s a problem that the creators theoretically shouldn’t have to deal with themselves at all. As Stevenson says, “Creators are stuck having to pay out-of-pocket for protection that OnlyFans [and other sites] should be providing themselves.”