Design By Humans
Published On: Fri, Feb 21st, 2020

THE SEX FILES: David Epstein of the Dating App #open on the Issue with Facebook

Photo credit: #open

Late last year, Hashtag Open, (#open), a dating app designed to create a safer space for “people of all gender identities and orientations, from all walks of life, in any sort of relationship” to find whatever it is that gets them going in or out of a relationship, was rejected as a Facebook dating app partner. Facebook claims that it does not allow ads that “have a sexual emphasis, such as sites with ‘couple’ or ‘group’ options. Promotion of casual dating, hookups, affairs, and ‘mail-order brides’ are also prohibited.” In attempting to justify their denial further, Zuckerberg’s baby claimed that their “advertising policies are informed by detailed global user sentiment analysis to reflect the global audience on our platform.” However, a cursory search shows that the social media giant is home to hundreds of polyamory, ethical/consensual non-monogamy, kink, and swinger discussion groups with over 350k active users seeking to engage in those online communities. And Facebook’s ban does not apply to hookup apps like Tinder (which allows partners to share a single profile), Hinge, OkCupid (which runs ads asking “foreplay or get right to it?” and also supports multiple relationship types, including non-monogamous ones), or Righter (a dating app for people with conservative political leanings).

Even when #open tried altering their ads to conform to Facebook’s standards, again, Facebook rejected #open’s application.

I decided to try and get to the root of all this with #open’s co-founder, David Epstein.

First of all, tell me what hashtag open is.

Hashtag open is a dating app for lack of a better term that was born a few years now, out of me and my partner’s experience. We realized that there was a need for a platform that explored all the different ways people date and experience their sexuality, which was not always only hetero-normative.

And your main gripe with Facebook has been about…?

They won’t let us advertise on their platform. Among everything else, they said to us they claim that they do not support something ‘causal dating?’

A pretty nebulous term, no?

Sure, and not only that, Facebook allowed apps like OKCupid that supports their own vast polyamory community and are running adds about hooking up…as are lots of other platforms Facebook allowed. It’s a definite double standard.

And we offer a transparent, simple privacy model (note #open’s tagline on their site is: ‘Your data is Yours’) where we do not share your information, unlike many others who advertise with Facebook.

Maybe that’s the reason they don’t want you. If you don’t share your info what good are you to Facebook’s bottom line. Zuckerberg may have changed the world and brought people closer together in a grand Kumbaya, but he’s still a businessman who wants to make money.

I’m not sure of the reason. It could be that our language is just too specific, or it could be something more biological. I think it’s more a corporate machine doing what it does, trying to figure that out.

I can say, with the speeches Zuckerberg gives to Silicon Valley, not wanting to censor political adds, the free speech he talks about, it doesn’t jibe with what we are experiencing.

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, couldn’t one argue that this is the risk one takes the minute they slip into any social media?

I think if you are on any platform, you are concerned with data privacy, even before the Cambridge Analytic story broke, everyone was aware that there was a ton of information floating around.  Of course, everyone has a different comfort level, and yes, you are exposed pretty much no matter what platform you go on. But I think most people understand that they have to do their due diligence in making sure what they are doing and where they are doing it. It’s one thing to talk to someone through a device, then speak to them on the phone, and then person to person. What we hope with hashtag open is to make that process work out well.

And it’s not just Facebook you are having trouble with, right? 

The others, Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, they use the same language rejecting us, pretty much following Facebook. As we expected, they would. Facebook sets the standard. But when you peel back the onion on what those platforms do allow, it’s laughable them denying us.  If we agree that sexual freedom lies at the heart of human dignity, like equality and civil rights, in this day and age, people should be able to explore what they want without shame, without something like Facebook trying to pushing all of us underground as if our desires were dirty.

Surely this is a fascinating debate and one I am sure Mr.Epstein and #open might be having for quite some time. Not being ‘on’ Facebook and actually pretty much against the mind-numbing platform, I am rooting for #open (and the many more apps and sites out there that might come up against Facebook’s blockade in the future) to best the giant and offer people a clear, honest and fun option. As I went to press here, Mr. Epstein emailed me to shoot me over this link, This is a petition his partner Amanda, co-founder of #open with David, just began.

You can find Hastag Open here.

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THE SEX FILES: David Epstein of the Dating App #open on the Issue with Facebook