Ello’s new legal status leaves questions unanswered – by Amel Ahmed  October 24, 2014 


The social network is part of a growing trend of companies struggling to balance privacy concerns with market needs

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Ello announced on Thursday that it had registered as a public benefit corporation to ensure that it never displays ads or sells user data — a move aimed at quashing speculation that the so-called “anti-Facebook” site would someday be forced to run paid ads.

Benefit corporations are for-profit enterprises that are required to produce a benefit for society as a whole, according to the Benefit Corporation Information Center.

Ethically minded Ello, which made its public debut in August, touts itself as an alternative to ad-driven social networks.

The social network even has a manifesto, which spells out its legal commitments to remaining ad-free and safeguarding user data.

“Ello’s explosive growth over the past few months proves that there is a hunger to connect with friends and see beautiful things — without being manipulated by ad salesmen, boosted posts, and computer algorithms,” the network’s manifesto states.

Neil Richards, Professor of Law at Washington University, agrees.

“This is not about Ello. It’s about alternatives to Facebook and companies that have begun competing on privacy,” Richards said. “People are looking for alternatives, and the public’s attention has seized upon Ello as the most likely one.”