Nick Clegg, Meta and the OnlyFans allegations

Social media giant says the accusations of bribery are ‘baseless’

Nick Clegg
Clegg joined Facebook in October 2018 as its head of global affairs
(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has rejected allegations by a group of adult entertainers of accepting bribes from a pornography site.

A legal action brought in San Francisco, described as “bizarre” by The Telegraph, claims the former Liberal Democrat leader – now president of global affairs at social media giant Meta – and two other executives at the company helped “adult content platform OnlyFans outperform its rivals”.

What are the allegations?

Clegg and his colleagues were accused of accepting bribes from OnlyFans in court papers filed in California. The Telegraph said the “bitterly contested” action claims that the three senior Meta executives took bribes to help OnlyFans by flagging its rivals’ online material as extremist, effectively blacklisting them.

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The adult entertainers said they were “leaked new evidence of bribery” in the form of “bank records that detail wire transfers from OnlyFans executives to offshore accounts for Meta executives”, reported Gizmodo.

Clegg was named in US court papers as having accepted money from Fenix International, the parent company of OnlyFans. Along with Nicola Mendelsohn, vice-president of Meta’s global business team, and European safety director Cristian Perrella, he is accused of being paid money into trust fund accounts in the Philippines. Meta and OnlyFans strongly deny the allegation.

The accused trio’s names were “supposed to be blocked out of the court filings, but were ‘inadvertently unredacted’ by lawyers from Fenix International”, said The Telegraph.

The plaintiffs, adult entertainers Dawn Dangaard, Kelly Gilbert and Jennifer Allbaugh, had their original complaint dismissed by a judge, who said it was too vague. In the amended filings, the names of the Meta executives were mistakenly left unredacted.

Their lawsuit was filed against Meta and its subsidiaries Facebook and Instagram, OnlyFans’ parent company Fenix International and OnlyFans owner Leonid Radvinsky. Another company, Fenix Internet, is “alleged by the plaintiffs to have served as an intermediary for the bribes”, according to The Telegraph.

What do Clegg and Meta say?

Caroline Nolan, Meta’s vice president of public affairs, responded to an email sent by Gizmodo to Clegg’s email address, saying: “The claims are false.”

OnlyFans has described the claims as “meritless”, while a spokesperson for Meta said the plaintiffs “haven’t identified a shred of evidence, and these allegations have been previously dismissed in federal court”.

“As we make clear in our motion to dismiss, we deny these allegations as they lack facts, merit, or anything that would make them plausible,” said the spokesperson. “The allegations are baseless.”

In its motion to dismiss, Fenix International said the complaint contained “virtually no factual allegations to support this alleged conspiracy”.

What is OnlyFans?

The digital platform allows users to charge fans for exclusive pictures, videos and other customised content, and it features more than just pornography. You can get training tips from athletes, for instance, or cooking tutorials. Cardi B and Bella Thorne are among several mainstream celebrities to have set up accounts on the site.

The platform has become increasingly popular in recent years, boasting more than 100 million registered users.

What is Clegg’s role at Meta?

Clegg joined Facebook in October 2018 as its head of global affairs. He is rumoured to earn £2.7m a year and was awarded shares worth £9.4m when he was promoted to the ranks of Meta’s top brass alongside chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and put in charge of the “thorniest policy decisions”, said The Telegraph.

However, his time at the company has been marked with controversy. “Facebook on Clegg’s watch has been accused of fuelling misinformation through its failure to tackle misleading content on its platforms,” said Reaction earlier this year.

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