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Jimmy Fallon On the Pros and Cons of Joining Ello: VIDEO

Jimmy fallon

By now you've probably heard of Ello, the minimalist social network that became the "anti-Facebook" alternative following Facebook's "real names" policy controversy last month (a policy that has since been abandoned).

As Ello is still invite-only, many social networkers are curious to see if the site is worth joining once it opens up to the public. To help you decide, Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon has the pros and cons AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Jimmy Fallon On the Pros and Cons of Joining Ello: VIDEO" »


'Facebook VP' Apologizes to Drag Queens for 'Real Name' Policy on Ellen: VIDEO

Facebook_ellen

Last week we reported that Facebook changed its "real name" policy in response to outrage after the social network began to enforce rules requiring users to attach their birth names to personal pages.

Much of the anger over the policy came from drag queens, and a coalition led by Sister Roma of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was instrumental in getting Facebook to change it.

Following the policy change, Facebook issued a formal apology.

Ellen DeGeneres spoke about the controversy on her show today and invited "Facebook VP Josh Blackenship" to apologize to a list of drag queens by name.

Watch it all go down, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "'Facebook VP' Apologizes to Drag Queens for 'Real Name' Policy on Ellen: VIDEO" »


Drag Queens Declare Victory as Facebook Apologizes, Says It Will 'Fix' 'Real Name' Policy

Mtg

Facebook's head of product Chris Cox apologized on Wednesday to "the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community" for the "hardship" caused by the company's "real names" policy, which resulted in the deactivation of many accounts after the social network began to enforce rules requiring users to attach their birth names to personal pages.

A group of dissenters led by Sister Roma of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence met with Facebook officials last month and reported afterward that the company would continue to enforce the policy, keeping accounts active for two weeks to people could decide whether to provide their "real" names.

The group had a second meeting today.

At today's meeting they were told of the company's promise to change the policy and offered the public apology by Cox, which you can read in full here.

CoxToday, Cox (right) said the company promises to "fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were."

Said Cox:

The way this happened took us off guard. An individual on Facebook decided to report several hundred of these accounts as fake. These reports were among the several hundred thousand fake name reports we process every single week, 99 percent of which are bad actors doing bad things: impersonation, bullying, trolling, domestic violence, scams, hate speech, and more — so we didn't notice the pattern. The process we follow has been to ask the flagged accounts to verify they are using real names by submitting some form of ID — gym membership, library card, or piece of mail. We've had this policy for over 10 years, and until recently it's done a good job of creating a safe community without inadvertently harming groups like what happened here.

Our policy has never been to require everyone on Facebook to use their legal name. The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life. For Sister Roma, that's Sister Roma. For Lil Miss Hot Mess, that's Lil Miss Hot Mess. Part of what's been so difficult about this conversation is that we support both of these individuals, and so many others affected by this, completely and utterly in how they use Facebook.

Cox also justified Facebook's "real names" policy as a point of differentiation from the rest of the internet, much of which operates on anonymity.

Cox added:

Second, it's the primary mechanism we have to protect millions of people every day, all around the world, from real harm. The stories of mass impersonation, trolling, domestic abuse, and higher rates of bullying and intolerance are oftentimes the result of people hiding behind fake names, and it's both terrifying and sad. Our ability to successfully protect against them with this policy has borne out the reality that this policy, on balance, and when applied carefully, is a very powerful force for good.

Cox says that the company is building better authentication tools "for understanding who's real and who's not" and a way to better communicate with those who are affected.

ElloIs it enough to prevent a mass exodus to upstart social networks like Ello, which has been described as "anti-Facebook" and has been attracting thousands of new members a day since the "real names" policy controversy began?

Well, a group of dissenters who had been planning a protest against Facebook for this Thursday at 12 noon in front of San Francisco City Hall have instead turned it into a Victory Party, writing:

GREAT NEWS: At our meeting Wednesday, Facebook acknowledged the flaws in their "real names" policy, stating that it was never their intention to require legal names and that everyone should feel free to use the names they go by in real life. We're also thrilled to report that Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox issued a sincere apology to our communities and agreed to take concrete action in the coming weeks to amend the enforcement procedures so that we won't have to deal with trolls again or show ID. We couldn't be happier, so we're turning this protest into a VICTORY RALLY!!!

Mark Snyder, Senior Manager, Communications at Transgender Law Center also released a statement to Towleroad:

"We had a very productive meeting with Facebook today in which they apologized for the way this situation has been handled, and they committed to making changes to the way they enforce their 'real names' policy to ensure that folks who need to use chosen names that reflect their authentic selves online are able to do so. We are excited to work in good faith with Facebook to address all the concerns raised in today's meeting. What was made clear today is that Facebook is ready to collaborate with our communities and shares our value of making sure everyone is able to safely be their authentic self online. We applaud the many staff at Facebook who advocated tirelessly for this progress."

(top image dragaholic news twitter)


Sex and Queer Culture: Can Ello Succeed Where Facebook Won't Go?

WellEllo

The Interplay is a special bi-weekly series exploring the intersections of sex, pop culture, and current events.

BY CHARLES PULLIAM-MOORE

Last week everyone seemed to suddenly begin pushing Ello, artist Paul Budnitz’s style-centric social media platform. Ello’s major selling points--a clean design, pseudo-exclusivity, and a lack of advertisements--made it an obvious alternative to services like Facebook or Twitter. Most of the coverage about Ello, including our own, highlighted the contrast between the service’s “come as you are” ideology and Facebook’s recent doubling down on its “real name policy.”

A vocal contingent of the drag community is protesting Facebook’s naming policies and adding some credence to the idea that Facebook just isn’t as “cool” as it used to be. That being said, one-fifth of the world’s population logs onto Facebook every month, and the site is projected to control almost 20% of U.S. mobile ad market by the end of the year. As tone-deaf as Zuckerberg and co. may have been in their policing of online identities, Facebook, contrary to popular belief, is doing just fine.

Tumblr_mvrapdFibC1qz8q0ho1_500For all of the grand proclamations of user-empowerment made in its manifesto, Ello looks a lot like the social networks that came before it, when looked at objectively. Profiles are styled in a similar fashion to Twitter’s, and Ello’s endless scrolling bears a striking resemblance to Tumblr’s primary dashboard interface.

Despite thriving on the idea of being edgy and anti-ad, a number of high-profile brands (like Sonos and Netflix) have staked out spots in Ello. Even more interesting are the questions being raised about Ello’s early venture capital funding, something seemingly at odds with it anti-establishment ethos.

And yet in spite of all that Ello is growing.

Ello doesn’t seem to have a means of determining a user’s sexual orientation, but Budnitz has said that his team has seen a particular spike in new LGBT users. According to Budnitz, Ello’s LGBT userbase is playing a “particularly helpful [role] in shaping their development going forward,” which could mean a number of different things.

In the past non-dating social networks designed with gay men in mind have tried--and generally failed--to carve out a unique space for themselves. Fab.com, the one-time wunderkind of daily deals, began in 2010 as Fabulis, a gay Facebook clone without an obvious business model. Fabulis’s decision to reinvent itself as an e-commerce hub says a lot about the viability of a “gay social network.”

So what is it, then, that Ello is doing to solidify itself as the queer-friendly anti-Facebook? Well for starters, it’s pro-porn.

Sex-positive tech journalist Violet Blue recently took to Twitter to warn her followers that an early version of Ello’s terms of service prohibited posting work-unfriendly content. Justin Gitlin, one of Ello’s lead developers quickly responded to Blue, asserting that Ello’s position on racier content was quickly evolving.

Screenshot 2014-09-29 09.14.32“We don’t have a problem with porn at all,” Ello creator Paul Budnitz clarified to BetaBeat “But we would have a problem with (adult content) that encourages people to hurt each other, or anything that has to do with children.”

As timely as comparisons to Facebook may be, Ello would have a much better shot at becoming the social for edgy, artistic gays by borrowing from Tumblr. Though Tumblr has made a name for itself for being a lightweight, customizable blogging tool for the masses, the service owes a large part of its success to its highly active community of pornography curators.

Tumblr hosts a wide variety of mature content ranging from hardcore, animated gifsets to erotic prose and poetry. Diving into Tumblr’s depths proves not only that Rule 34 is very real, but also that vibrant, engaged non-sexually explicit communities can exist on the same platform as the raunchiest of skin flicks. Straddling that gap could be the key to Ello’s future success.

Queer Young Cowboys, a St. Louis-based micropress, specializes in smart, stylish literary raunch. QYC creator Johnny Murdoc explained that his interest in Ello went beyond seeing an opportunity to grow his brand.

Screenshot 2014-09-29 16.40.35“I know I'm getting a more authentic report from the writers and artists I follow, and not just the narratives or work that fit within guidelines,” he said. “Guidelines have never been friendly to queer creators, especially when it comes to sexual content.”

Artists working in adult spaces, Murdoc says, have worked around the limitations imposed by platforms like Facebook and Instagram, by tailoring their content to fit within acceptable parameters. But that ingenuity comes, at least in part, with a degree of creative censorship.

“There may be a post about some new thing, but they're never showing the new thing, especially with visual artists.” he described. “I know some creators who are dogged by people who report any risqué content, and that leads them to talk about their work in other venues rather than risk being shut down.”

Projects like QYC aren’t uncommon, but all too often their signal gets lost in the social media noise as a result of having to contort their messages to fit within narrowly defined standards of acceptability. How many more independent films like Travis Matthews’s I Want Your Love and In Their Room might have a chance to flourish if only their creators were given a central, social hub in which to share and spread their ideas?

Whether Ello intends to become that hub remains to be seen, but being known as the digital epicenter of risqué, avant-garde content creation certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing.


Minimalist Social Network 'Ello' Grows As Drag Queens Rally Against Facebook: VIDEO

Ello

Ello, a social network created by a group by a collective of artists and programmers, is positioning itself as the lightweight, minimalist alternative to Facebook that has no interest in selling you ads. The site, which is currently in beta and invite-only, isn’t exactly new to the scene. Ello first launched in March of last year, months before revelations about the NSA’s extensive collection of American telecom information. Ello introduced itself with a sign-up list and a straightforward manifesto that explained its creators’ vision:

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

Like many other fledgling social networks positioning themselves opposite of giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, Ello’s initial growth was slow, steady, and fueled almost entirely by word of mouth. In the past week, however, Ello has seen exponential growth in its userbase for a number of easily identifiable reasons.

Ello began sending out invitations to its waiting list in earlier this July a month after Facebook was revealed to have been subtly manipulating its users for research purposes. Twitter, faced similar backlash following reports of its plans to begin algorithmically modifying users’ timelines to create a more tailored experience. Most recently Facebook drew the ire of many members of the LGBT community for its decision to enforce a “real name” policy forbidding users from creating profiles with non-legal names. A number of prominent drag performers, many of whom ran Facebook pages under their drag names, expressed their concern with the policy.

Sister roma“I use this site to keep up with friends and simply don't want employers or crazy stalker people to log on and search me.” Sister Roma [pictured right] of the San Francisco chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence explained to SFist. “I want my friends to find me...I detest the idea of having a fan page. I'm not fucking Britney Spears. I have friends, not fans.”

Google Plus backpedaled on a similar policy earlier this year after a number of its users reported being outed to their social circles against their will. Unlike Google Plus, for whom its naming policy was the latest in a long line of social media gaffes, Ello’s creators have made it clear that users are free to inhabit the platform however they like.

“Artists, bloggers, people who are concerned about privacy, people who have had problems with stalkers, celebrities, and members of the LGBTQ community sometimes choose not to use their real names — out of personal preference, or to protect themselves,” Paul Budnitz, one of Ello’s creators, told BetaBeat.  “There is no reason for us to require people to use real names.“Ello doesn’t mine or sell data or have ads, so we invite people to be who they want to be.”

Ello’s sudden spike in popularity has drawn the public’s attention much in the same way that Diaspora, a crowdfunded social networking project, did in 2012. Like Ello, Diaspora marketed itself as an independent platform that empowered users to take control of their data without administrative oversight. Diaspora recently found itself back in the media spot after members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) began using the platform specifically because their activities could not be tracked or stopped by Diaspora’s moderation team.

Whether Ello manages to maintain its status as an exclusive, free-for-some outlet for digital art and expression remains to be seen, but demand for invitation codes remains high.

And if you missed Brigitte Bidet's catchy smackdown of Facebook's anti-drag queen policy "WTF, Zuck?" you can check it out AFTER THE JUMP...

Bidet

Continue reading "Minimalist Social Network 'Ello' Grows As Drag Queens Rally Against Facebook: VIDEO" »


Is Egypt Surveilling Social Media To Hunt Down Gay People? - VIDEO

Egyptian surveillance

Concerns are mounting in Egypt that authorities will use new online monitoring software to hunt down LGBT people, reports Buzzfeed.

Earlier this month, Egyptian authorities arrested nine men for "debauchery" but later concluded that "the men tested negative for homosexuality."

Using U.S. technology, Egypt is now monitoring online communications, giving the government an unprecedented ability to comb through data from Skype, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp and Viber.

In recent weeks, Egypt’s LGBT community has issued warnings to avoid using Grindr after rumors spread that officials were using the app to arrest gay men.

Although Egyptian officials have said their monitoring of online activity will focus on preventing terrorist attacks, one Interior Ministry official said the current mandate was “much broader”:

“We are looking at any conversation, any interaction, we might find worrying or would want to keep a closer eye on. We are watching conversations between Islamists, or those who discuss Islamism. We are watching communities, which we consider at risk.”

EgyptThe official went on to say that those taking part in “debauchery” or “homosexual acts” would be watched “for the protection of Egypt.”

He added that although he wasn’t familiar with Grindr, there were “dozens of Facebook groups” used by the LGBT community that are being watched.

Gen. Hany Abd el Lateef, a spokesman for Egypt’s Interior Ministry, denied that the government plans to monitor citizens’ private lives.  

However, a copy of the tenders issued by the Interior Ministry which specifies the type of online communications it will be searching for suggests otherwise.  The list includes:

  • Blasphemy and skepticism in religions
  • Spreading of rumors and intentional twisting of facts
  • Sarcasm
  • Pornography, looseness, and lack of morality

Providing the service to the Egyptian government, See Egypt is the sister company of the U.S.-based Blue Coat.

Ali Miniesy, the CEO of See Egypt, said that the company had been contracted to provide Egypt’s State Security with the system, and to teach officials how to comb through data gathered from email accounts and social media sites.

He added that although the software can be used to penetrate social media and other software, it is a system similar to that used by most Western governments, including the United States.

According to Eva Blum-Dumontet, an advocacy officer with the U.K.-based NGO Privacy International:

“This new software makes it very easy to target anyone, en masse. The user simply says, ‘I want to look for atheists, or homosexuals,’ and the company gets all the data. It’s extremely easy.

"There is a difference between what you do on social media and what you do in the real world. The concern is that people who are not necessarily our protesting would suddenly be on the radar of the Egyptian authorities because they liked a status on Facebook or retweeted something.”

Egyptian Human Rights groups filed a lawsuit on June 17 alleging that the system used by Egypt “threatens private life and public freedom.”  However, the lawsuit could take years to work its way through the courts, and in the meantime the See Egypt technology will continue to be used.

Watch a report on this story, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Is Egypt Surveilling Social Media To Hunt Down Gay People? - VIDEO" »


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