Facebook has been the center of controversy many times, but this may be the first time that their changing of the rules may hit them where it hurts. LGBT+ users who are shocked, saddened and offended by Facebook's new "real name" policy are flocking to a new network: Ello.
If you haven't heard of Ello before this week, you're not alone. Just this morning my Facebook timeline blew up with friends offering invite codes for what I assumed was a new Gilt-like shopping site, and what turned out to be a new and friendlier social network, which would allow anyone who wanted to be a part of it be who they wanted to be, complete with the name they've chosen for themselves.
Ello's uptick in popularity comes from Facebook's new decree that everyone on the site must now use their real name. For some, like me, this isn't a problem. I use my real name for everything (because I am fairly histrionic). For others, those who are better known by their drag names, those who are concerned about being stalked and those who don't want to be found under their real name, this is a huge problem. Facebook claims that the new policy (which requires all users to register under the name which appears on their ID and not under GIRL YOULOOKINGFINE) is meant to keep the community safe, but The Daily Dot points out that it may also be a way for making performers migrate from personal profiles to fan pages in an effort to make more coin for the site's already overflowing coffers.
And, according to Sister Roma, a sister of Perpetual Indulgence who's been very vocal about the new rules, using your legal name might even be dangerous or traumatizing for some.
This issue is discriminatory against transgender and other nonconforming individuals who have often escaped a painful past. They've reinvented themselves or been born again and made whole, adopting names and identities that do not necessarily match that on their driver's license.
Enter Ello, the Facebook alternative that's less icky than Google+, ad-free and willing to let you be the person you've always wanted. Well, with carefully chosen photographs and status updates, of course. According to The Daily Dot, more and more users have been flocking to the site and, after an influx of radical faeries, Ello's creator says that the site is having a huge surge in registrations from those in the LGBT+ community.
Ello is refreshingly simple. According to creator Paul Budnitz. The Daily Dot reports that the social network's abuse team can quickly respond to users and that the network takes any form of harassment very seriously.
"You don't have to use your 'real name' to be on Ello. We encourage people to be whoever they want to be," Budnitz said. "All we ask is that everyone abide by our rules (which are posted on the site) that include standards of behavior that apply to everyone. We have a zero tolerance policy for hate, stalking, trolls, and other negative behavior and we'll permanently ban and nuke accounts of anyone who does any of this, ever."
Awesome! No wonder people are migrating. But how capable is Ello of handling even a small percentage of users? It's definitely not big yet, but as word spreads, how long before it's also inundated with more users than the abuse team can handle. And how long before Ello's creators decide that ad revenue isn't just desirable, but possibly necessary?
As for Sister Roma, she'll continue fighting Facebook's new policies. A protest is scheduled for October 2nd.
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