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  • Screenshot from ello.co

    Screenshot from ello.co

Published 27 September 2014

“You are not a product” is the motto of a service that might as well have promised to sell you already.

According to some tech sites, the "Facebook era is over" with the arrival of Ello, a new social network which has promised to be everything that Zuckerberg´s product isn't: advertisement free, and respecful of privacy. However, some reports on its founding and background have made anti-corporate surveillance specialists suspicious.

So far the network is invite only. Its website has a manifesto, which states, “Your social network is owned by advertisers… We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity... 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. You are not a product,” say the manifesto.

Already the new network has had high growth, getting up to 27 thousand new users per hour, with invites even being offered through eBay in what could be considered a black market. The network briefly experienced a website crash and had to suspend invitations.

“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,” Paul Budnitz, one of the Ello creators said. “All these people are being kicked out of Facebook.”

However, Aral Balkan, of ind.ie, a defender of privacy with an anti-corporate stance, pointed out on his website that after having several talks with Ello’s creators, he discovered they had accepted funding from a venture capital firm, something they forget to mention in their manifesto or on their About page.

“When you take venture capital, it is not a matter of if you’re going to sell your users, you already have. It’s called an exit plan. And no investor will give you venture capital without one ... Let me put it bluntly: if a company has taken venture capital, you have already been sold. It’s not a matter of if, it’s simply a matter of when,” Balkan said in his article Ello, Goodbye.

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