Social Networks Hub




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.


Northern Ireland Health Minister Blocks LGBT, Womens' Rights Groups On Twitter

10685470_10152753413325948_4590948646517309320_n

Northern Ireland’s new Health Minister, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) member Jim Wells, has taken to blocking critics on Twitter, reports Pink News.

Appointed to the post on Tuesday, Wells replaces Edwin Poots (DUP) who has opposed same-sex marriage and refused to lift the country’s ban on gay men donating blood. Blocked from twitter by Jim Wells

Wells has previously said that he finds Pride “repugnant” and has refused to take part in gay rights debates.

In 2011, he told Belfast Pride:

“I find the behaviour of those who take part in this march repugnant. I do not wish to be associated in any way with this event. My position on this will not change in the future and I would politely suggest that any further requests of this nature will be a total waste of your time.”

According to Pink News, although their official Twitter account has been blocked, Wells has yet to give them a reason for doing so.

A hashtag #BlockedByWells has sprung up among users targeted by the Minister, including women’s rights activists groups, gay rights advocates and gay Christian group @FaithAndPride.

Yesterday, Wells took to Twitter to praise Edwin Poots' time in office as Health Minister.


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" »


Twitter Crowdsources Manhunt for Philadelphia Hate-Crime Attackers, Suspects Turn Themselves In: VIDEO

Suspects

Yesterday, we told you about a brutal hate crime that took place in Philadelphia's City Center. Last night, Philadelphia Police released a surveillance video that appeared to show a group of up to 12 people they identified as suspects in the assault. Shortly thereafter, the video spread like wildfire on social media and resulted in the suspects being identified. Philadelphia Magazine reports: 

PhillyWithin hours, former Real Housewives of New Jersey castmate Greg Bennett tweeted this photo [pictured right] that he claims — because of similarities in clothing — includes some of the alleged suspects in the hate crime that happened on Thursday in Center City. 

Not long after, police were contacted by lawyers for the suspects. 6ABC reports: "Late Tuesday night, Action News has learned attorneys for some members of the group have called police. They are making arrangements to bring their clients in for questioning on Wednesday."

Twitter user @FanSince09 also played a pivotal role in identifying the suspects. He was able to identify the restaurant shown in the background of the photo tweeted by Bennett and also used Facebook check-ins to help identify the attackers. 

No arrests have been made, but Philadelphia police are crediting Twitter and social media users with helping to solve this case.

Philadelphia native and NPR social media guru Melody Kramer documented how the crowdsourced Twitter sleuthing went down using Storify. Check out her excellent timeline along with a news report that shows the surveillance video in question and includes an interview with @FanSince09, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Twitter Crowdsources Manhunt for Philadelphia Hate-Crime Attackers, Suspects Turn Themselves In: VIDEO" »


Moovz Gay Social Network Hires Out Actor Nakshatra Bagwe To Make Push For India

Bagwe

Moovz, a social network for gay men, has just signed Mumbai-based actor Nakshatra Bagwe as one of its international brand ambassadors. Bagwe, 23, came out publicly last year at India’s first LGBT-oriented flashmob, a decision that brought him to the attention of the Indian media and inspired him to begin filming a documentary about being gay in India. His modest rise to fame for coming out brought the young filmmaker’s project to the international independent film circuit

“The night I came home with my trophy my mother was waiting for me,” Bagwe said of winning his first award. “In the same dining room where I had my coming out five years before, she told me how proud she was of me.”

Launched in early January of this year, Moovz is built on the premise of encouraging its users to be open about who they are. Unlike hookup applications like Grindr and Hornet or web platforms like Adam4Adam, Moovz’s desktop and mobile applications are meant to foster community growth.

“This revolutionary platform enables users to share their own content, chat in real-time, and interact with others,” Moovz CEO Liav Eliash told the Huffington Post. “We believe that providing our Moovz platform for people around the globe who already have things in common will enable them to interact on a higher level and connect as a community."

Moovz’s move into India comes at an interesting time in the country’s position on its LGBT population. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes sexual acts "against the order of nature" like homosexuality, was declared as unconstitutional by the High Court of Delhi in 2009. India’s Supreme Court overturning the decision in 2013, asserting that any repeal of 377 would be a matter to be dealt with by Parliament rather than the judiciary body.

"[Moovz has] identified a big target group here and that the LGBT community is not any 'miniscule' section," Bagwe told the Hindustan Times. “It's time for us to come out as well and not feel shy about our sexuality.”

Watch a trailer for the Moovz social network AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Moovz Gay Social Network Hires Out Actor Nakshatra Bagwe To Make Push For India" »


How Social Media and the Internet Are Rewiring Your Brain: VIDEO

Asap

The ASAP Science duo takes a look at five crazy ways the internet and social media are changing your brain at this very moment. 

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP... 

And to help stay up-to-date on your dopamine-fueled social media fix, be sure and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Continue reading "How Social Media and the Internet Are Rewiring Your Brain: VIDEO" »


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged