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Ello Launch ‘Not-Safe-For-Work’ Month

Freedom of Smut

www.webmasto.com

You may not be aware of Ello, an invite-only, ad-free social network that’s currently in its beta testing phase. At present it has over 1 million users, with murky speculation about whether or not it will ever actually take off and become a real competitor for Facebook, Twitter and the rest (I’d say it’s fairly unlikely).

In any case, they’ve been road testing some neat ideas, mostly based around subverting the restrictions that exist on other social media platforms, with the latest one being censorship. ‘Not-Safe-For-Work Month’ (or NSFW Month from now on, just to cut down on keyboard torture) encourages Ello users to post whatever they want, regardless of whom it might offend. The timing is interesting, since Twitter are currently toughening up on abusive material, ditto Reddit, and Google took steps to get pornographic material off of Blogger (and then swiftly backpedalled). Ello is clearly the hipster table of the high school cafeteria that social media has become.

This isn’t the first time Ello have taken advantage of exclusionist behaviour from other social media platforms. When Facebook’s real name policy started inadvertently barring members of the LGBTQ community (and later, Native Americans) from using the names they identified by, many of them moved over to Ello, attracted to its simplicity and accepting, open armed personality (provided you know someone who can invite you in).

Ello has been aimed towards a niche, artist-based crowd from the beginning, so the move makes a certain amount of sense, social media sharing has become an essential tool to promote creative work and any system that excludes erotic or in any way potentially offensive art from its output is bound to drive people away. Tumblr remains the best option for sharing NSFW material at present, but it’s a lot more general, and most users are happy to just reblog pictures of Nicholas Cage and ridiculous Harry Potter fan theories, or deeply disturbing erotic fan fiction.

Ello are more based around a sort-of internalised recruitment system, with artists being encouraged to bring their peers into the fold, somewhere where they can promote their work without having to tangle with general advertising or compete with those who have more money to throw into their promotional war-chest. Of course, it still needs to be funded somehow, and Ello have found various, interesting ways to generate revenue, such as an upcoming internal app store, and a partnership with Threadless to sell shirts. At time of writing they’ve shifted over 50,000, or as founder Paul Budnitz put it, “like, a f****** lot of T-shirts.”

During NSFW month, any content that falls under that banner will be highlighted and promoted so that it reaches as much of the user base as possible. If you aren’t an Ello user yet, there is currently a ‘freedom of speech’ invite page in place that appeals directly to anyone who might be concerned about being banned from other platforms for posting NSFW content. All you have to do is input your email and boom, an invitation will be sent your way (with the implied suggestion that you will start posting NSFW content on there once you’ve signed up).

Ello is certainly idealistic, if nothing else, and it’ll be interesting to see just how well it manages to stay afloat with a niche user base and no ad revenue. At best it will become a new, alternative model for creatives who are jaded with the promotional tools available on Facebook and Twitter and at worst it’ll just fizzle out, like so many other social media platforms have over the years (Bebo, WAYN, Digg, Friendster, MySpace). 

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Ello Launch ‘Not-Safe-For-Work’ Month Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, March 09, 2015 Rating: 5
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