Are Scruff’s New Photo Policies A Dark Precursor To FOSTA/SESTA Legalized Censorship of LGBT Content?

In a statement this week Scruff CEO Eric Silverberg responded to criticisms that had been leveled at him from virtually every corner of the gay bloggersphere because of new restrictions on profile pics on the hook up app.

Out Magazine summed it up best: “The update is specific to profile photos (excluding private albums and photos exchanged in messages) and applies to all styles of apparel in which the crotch or groin area is highlighted or outlined. Pictures that violate these guidelines will be automatically converted into private album images and users will be prompted to select another profile photo. The initial alert was sent out Wednesday as Scruff had been contacted by app store distributors earlier this month with a warning, Scruff CEO Eric Silverberg tells Out in an email interview. Previously, certain photos in underwear and jockstraps were allowed.”

Sex columnist Alexander Cheves told Towleroad, “I predicted when Tumblr banned all adult content that hookup apps for queer men would go soon. They wouldn’t go immediately — first, they’ll change their image guidelines so that no lawmaker can accuse them of fostering sex trafficking.”


When asked why Cheves said, “Because prosecutors like Kamala Harris and countless other left-leaning and self-described feminist celebrities refuse to see sex as something healthy and normal. If people are finding sex on the internet, or on an app, it must be wrong, they reason, and someone must be getting exploited or trafficked — never mind the countless people who exploit themselves for their own profit, and the people like me who like getting exploited and objectified, and all the people who consensually and happily meet and play online.”

Cheves thinks that, “lawmakers think all this is dangerous. And queer people, whose promiscuous sex lives still terrify them and always will, are automatic targets. Scruff’s new guidelines literally say “no men kissing” — on a gay app. I believe the intention for FOSTA/SESTA was to curb sex trafficking, but the lawmakers who passed it have no idea what sex trafficking is or how it happens and they refuse to listen to those who do. They refuse to listen to victims and the people (sex workers and service providers) who are put it harms way. Who cares if a bunch of fags lose their dating app?”

For those who don’t know, FOSTA-SESTA were bills President Trump signed into law that were intended to make it easier to cut down on illegal sex trafficking online. Both bills — the House bill known as FOSTA, the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, and the Senate bill, SESTA, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act — have been hailed by advocates as a victory for sex trafficking victims. However the broad language of the bill was criticized for being inherently problematic. Among other things the bill is most famously well known as the law that ended Craigslist’s hugely popular personals section.

Cheves was quick to add, “I know this was not Scruff’s choice. They would have gotten pulled from the App Store, and they exist solely as an app.”

“Porn bans are coming. It’s time to protest,” he concluded.

LA based psychiatrist Tim McCall told Towleroad “FOSTA/SESTA needs to be repealed. It was a badly written law to begin with, impractical to implement, and has the general effect of stifling freedom of speech and of association, particularly impacting sexual minorities, but it’s just generally a bad law. And it’s not just the left. It was crafted as a perfect storm of fundamentalists on left and right–like when the state mental hospitals were all shut down the 1970s and early 80s because the left felt that people with severe mental illnesses should be cared for in nicer, community-based organizations (that never materialized) and the right just wanted to stop paying for mental health services. FOSTA/SESTA was created by right-wing activists who want to shut down sex in general and LGBT sex in particular, combining with left-wing activists who see most sex as inherently exploitative; both cloaked the whole thing in “save the children” false colors and sold it to Congress.”

Britton Pentakill founder of the gay social network WooHim dot com said, “Having only gained approval for our WooHim app on iOS store last tonight, I can tell you that we went thru constant review rejections and had to moderate hundreds of thousands of photos to make sure underwear was not publicly visible. Android wasn’t as brutal. The law still protects private pictures… so… unlock 4 unlock? and media shouts just to approved friends are still permitted.”

“This isn’t lookin so good guys …” Is the message Amp Somers, host of Watts the Safeword, wrote on Twitter said Out: “hashtagged SESTA and FOSTA, legislation that legislators say was intended to crack down on internet sex traffickers but that has spurred a darkening “sex panic” across the internet causing censorship and erasure of spaces once thought to be sex-positive, queer sex havens.”

Ultimately Silverberg told users, “Today most software is distributed via app stores, and consequently app content policies are a direct extension of app store content policies. Simply put, all gay and queer apps must enforce app store content policies or risk being removed from the app stores altogether, and this happened to SCRUFF earlier this year. Had this removal been permanent, it would have been devastating to our company and our community.”

He continued, “Moving forward, to comply with app store guidelines, the primary profile photo may not show jockstraps, underwear, or bikini-style swimwear. We have also clarified our policy by removing references to hugging and kissing – it is specifically sexually suggestive embraces that may not align with app store guidelines.”


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