Facebook's connection to users' personal lives has become questionable over the past few years. Whether the social network uses your personal information to try to tailor ads that are most relevant to your life or it performs experiments on you while you're innocently scrolling through your News Feed, the site has had its fair share of controversies.
While these intrusions are usually just annoying, sometimes they can verge on inhibiting freedom of expression. Facebook made the news a couple of weeks ago when drag queens who use the social network to promote themselves and their work had their profiles suspended. This was the result of Facebook cracking down on its policy that users must list their real names on their profiles. The drag performers, who often use stage names, were told that they had to use their legal names on Facebook before they could access their profiles again.
But now members of the LGBTQ community, along with artists and performers, are fighting back by leaving Facebook and heading to the new social network Ello in droves. Ello, which launched back in July, is receiving 4,000 new sign-ups per hour, the social network's founder Paul Budnitz told Betabeat.
"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," Budnitz said in an interview with Betabeat. "All these people are being kicked out of Facebook."
The Daily Dot has called this the "great gay Facebook exodus." The website has also previously noted the policy regarding names on Facebook can be especially harmful to LGBTQ users that may use different names from their legal names as part of forming their identity or as a precaution to protect their well-being.
"You don't have to use your 'real name' to be on Ello," Budnitz told The Daily Dot. "We encourage people to be whoever they want to be."
Ello is currently in its invite-only beta stage. The social network looks more like a blogging platform like Tumblr than Facebook with no clutter and lots of white space for users to fill with images and short posts. Also unlike Facebook, Ello is ad-free and open to NSFW content.
"We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency," reads Ello's Manifesto. "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."
However, one user from the LGBTQ community complained that Ello's lack of privacy controls and options to block users has made the social network feel less safe than other social networks, The Washington Post reported. It makes it harder to keep the trolls at bay without these resources in place. She wrote on her blog that "marketing doesn't usually try to ruin my career, or spread personal rumours about me, or harass me about my race or gender or sexuality. People do." However, Ello has since notified users via email that privacy controls and a block button are currently in the works, so perhaps this will help quell users' worries and continue Ello's status as an inclusive social network.
Very few new social networks find success these days. Ello could have easily just faded into obscurity, but if it continues to be an outlet for LGBTQ Internet users and outsiders of all kinds looking to be themselves, it could build a strong enough community of its own to survive.