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

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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.


Disgusting Wingnut Bryan Fischer Links Bestiality Conviction With Homosexuality

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Vile wingnut rent-a-voice Bryan Fischer has taken to Twitter to link bestiality with homosexuality, according to Good As You.

Fischer is head of anti-gay listed hate group American Family Association, a pitiful organization which recently claimed the reason gay people are gay is because they suffered sexual abuse and are broken individuals

Responding to a story on USA Today about a Florida man who has been jailed for five years for raping his 8-month-old pitbull puppy, Fischer tweeted:

"How long before an attorney defends a guy like this on grounds it's his orientation, he was born this way?"

The response to Fischer’s disgusting tweet? Gratifyingly angry...

 


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

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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.


Virginia Students Show Homophobic Preacher The True Meaning Of Christianity - VIDEO

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Reminding the world that not all Christians are focused solely on hatred for their fellow man, a homophobic preacher who appeared on the campus of James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia earlier this week had his hateful speech drowned out by students with a Christian message of peace and love, reports Huffington Post.

According to witnesses, Ross Jackson, who is the founder of Revival Mission Ministries, launched into sermons condemning a variety of "sinful acts," including homosexuality, drinking alcohol and listening to country music.

He is also reported to have yelled “all homos are going to hell” at a crowd gathered at one of the talks.

However, students at the university were not willing to allow Jackson to get away with his hate-speech. Student-journalist Lauren Hunt live-tweeted the preacher’s appearances, noting his arrogant approach to student opinions.  Other attendees brought rainbow-colored flags and protest signs, while one group of students stood in full view of Jackson to sing Christian hymns about love, drowning out his words.

According to Hunt, Jackson called the singers and guitar player a "pervert leader and his band of followers." However, Hunt tweeted “the students' singing has overpowered the voice of the preacher.”

According to the university’s newspaper, Jackson was forced to leave the college campus Wednesday after he was issued a police summons for assault and battery, as well as a no trespass notice.

Watch James Madison University show their understanding of the true meaning of Christianity, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Virginia Students Show Homophobic Preacher The True Meaning Of Christianity - VIDEO" »


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

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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" »


Republican Jacob Dorsey Drops Out Of Race For Wisconsin Assembly Following More Homophobic, Racist Comments

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Jacob Dorsey, the 19-year-old Republican candidate for Wisconsin State Assembly, has dropped out of the race after racist and homophobic comments he had made on Twitter and YouTube surfaced, reports LGBTQ Nation.

On Monday we reported that Dorsey was facing a backlash following a tweet sent last December that contained a homophobic slur.

The tweet, which has since been deleted, read: Acob dorsey yourtube comment1

“10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejects #Utah’s request to stop same-sex marriages.” fags need 2 leave my favorite state alone.”

In a statement, Dorsey had apologised for the tweet and said “I regret using unacceptable and hurtful language on social media last year. I am a staunch supporter of traditional marriage, but the language I used is not in keeping with my character, family values and Christian upbringing.”

However, yesterday NOManiacs, a group that exposes hate speech, reported that Dorsey had posted further racist and homophobic comments on YouTube. The comments were posted to Dorsey’s since deleted “jdorsey1995″ YouTube channel, the same account name he used for Twitter and Instagram.

Dorsey - a former intern with Citizens for Decency who has been endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right To Life - yesterday told the The Janesville Gazette that he had “decided to withdraw from the race due to insensitive remarks that have surfaced from years past. This race has been extremely hard on my family and myself.” Acob dorsey yourtube comment2

On Dorsey's resignation, NOManiacs said:

"We hope Jacob Dorsey truly regrets his posts. America needs leaders at all levels who champion diversity and are committed to represent all. Dorsey was not yet that person."


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