Taipei-based adult content platform is entrenched in controversy, facing investigation by Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau. Calling themselves the “OnlyFans of the East” and “Asia’s Largest Adult Private Platform,” SWAG specializes in providing explicit content via live broadcasts and one-on-one chats between creators (“Swaggers”) and viewers.
Like other popular apps such as Uber and Airbnb, and fellow adult content-friendly site OnlyFans, SWAG is a member of the “platform economy,” with an emphasis on user-generated content and facilitating digital interactions between individuals. SWAG offers in-app currency (“diamonds”) for the purpose of direct tips to performers, and the platform’s tagline aptly boasts “zero distance from your idol.”
SWAG’s genealogy can be traced to the streaming app 17 LIVE. Founded by media mogul and hip-hop artist Jeffrey Huang in 2015, 17 LIVE set out to be an all-ages music broadcasting platform. Shortly after its debut, however, the app was temporarily banned from the App Store and Google Play due to explicit content. The company complied, adjusting its content moderation and user registration system.
Spinning into a , parent company (now the 17 Live Group) introduced SWAG as a platform in 2016. SWAG is currently not publicly listed as a product on 17 Live Group’s website and since 2017 has been run by , who claims “A good adult website can let you conquer the universe.”
SWAG garnered public scrutiny from the start. Like its predecessor 17 LIVE, reports of explicit sexual content arose soon after the platform’s launch. This time, however, the app’s direct messaging format protected it from app store bans, and the company leaned into the raciness rather than comply with the pressure — 17 Media’s public relations team “Users privately sharing erotic photos, suggestive texts, and the like, is not at all illegal.”
The site with the legal gray areas of sex work, employing dinner date tactics to evade in-person prostitution charges, and a gift-based rhetoric for its paywalled private chats. It now openly identifies itself as an adult content platform and is listed with a “Mature” rating on app stores.
In another echo of 17 LIVE’s early days, SWAG recently shut down while under investigation by Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB). On April 2, the CIB SWAG’s offices, retaining 35 employees for interrogation and arresting 5, including Mr. Liu and his spouse, on the grounds of damaging public morals. The site for a brief time displayed a alerting users of the investigation.
SWAG’s social media accounts remained active throughout the site closure. A brief on Instagram explained that they were cooperating with authorities to implement more rigorous content moderation and user registration processes in the name of minor safety. SWAG a similar statement as well, adding “We will not run, we will not fall. Again, the rights of SWAG users and Swaggers will not be affected.”
This recent investigation follows an incident earlier this year, in which SWAG came under fire for a series of videos shot on a set that closely resembled a Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train car. The Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC) condemned the platform’s content, accusing SWAG of disseminating misinformation and exploiting MRT imagery for a publicity stunt. But since the videos were shot on fabricated film sets and only shown to site members, TRTC was not able to press charges. On April 13, however, the actor in the film Arielbb was in for questioning by the CIB, apparently for an unrelated issue of whether she provided sexual services to fans, which she denied.
The site has been restored, ostensibly having implemented the aforementioned rigorous policies called for by the authorities. SWAG’s public relations team has not responded to requests for comment from The News Lens.
Decentralization in content and currency
SWAG has been notorious for its and of the adult content industry. Instead of the traditional studio-based model of pornography production, SWAG joins fellow “platform economy” companies in giving agency to individual creators to produce their own content and interact directly with viewers.