A federal judge denied Meta’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit from a trio of adult entertainers who allege that Meta executives, including former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, took bribes from the owner of the site OnlyFans to blacklist its competitors.
Adult entertainment performers Dawn Dangaard, Kelly Gilbert, and Jennifer Allbaugh filed the federal class-action suit — which represents roughly 100 of their peers. They contend that three Meta executives took bribes to ensure that the sites on which they performed were added to a global database that included terrorists and other dangerous organizations targeted for removal and demotion by Facebook and Instagram.
“The plaintiffs revealed in September that they obtained a leaked email from an anonymous tipster, which purports to show wire transfers from Fenix International Ltd., owner of OnlyFans, to three Meta executives,” Bloomberg Law reported. “They included Meta’s president of global affairs Nick Clegg, vice president of Meta’s global business group Nicola Mendelsohn, and another employee Cristian Perrella.”
U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who sits in the Northern District of California, rejected Meta’s claim that the complaint does not allege the executives took steps to blacklist the plaintiffs.
“Plaintiffs’ claims are plausible,” Alsup ruled. “To the extent defendants argue that plaintiffs’ factual allegations are unreliable, that will be tested in discovery.”
Meta is the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.
Fenix, which is a co-defendant in the case, is owned by Leonid Radvinsky. Its OnlyFans site allows web users to pay to subscribe to accounts of performers and then shares the revenue with them. OnlyFans content creators use Facebook and Instagram to drive viewers to their sites. By allegedly bribing the Meta executives to demote or delete the posts of competitors, Radvinsky was able to increase traffic and revenue to OnlyFans, according to the suit.
Alsup cited the email that purportedly showed several wire transfers from Fenix defendants to the Meta executives as well as a Facebook whistleblower report that allegedly corroborated the plaintiffs’ claims.
“Certain employees are taking bribes to protect OnlyFans on [Facebook],” the report said. “They have taken down every OnlyFans competitor.”
Clegg, a former member of the U.K. parliament who served as leader of the Liberal Democrat Party from 2007-20015 and was deputy prime minister from 2010-2015, moved to the United States after losing his seat in a 2017 election. Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg named him Facebook’s vice president for global affairs and communications in 2018. In February of this year, Clegg was promoted to president of global affairs at Meta.