Uplust Isn’t “Instagram For Nudes,” It’s A Deceptive, Exploitative Cam Site

There’s an app called Uplust (link extremely NSFW) that’s being touted as “Instagram for nudes.” I know about it because of a marketing e-mail that suggested that because Bustle, Playboy, Maxim, and Complex had written about Uplust, perhaps The Frisky would like to cover it as well. OK! Mission accepted.

I am a #FreeTheNipple supporter, because I certainly disagree on a personal level with the idea that Instagram has deemed male nipples appropriate and female nipples inappropriate. This is precisely the reason that French developer Quentin Lechemia came up with what was once “Pornostagram” (ouch) and is now Uplust. Well: Either he has strong convictions about female nipples being equivalent to male nipples, or he just thought that a porn-based social network would be profitable. Uplust’s marketers would like us to believe the former, but I’ll leave that up to you.

Here are the marketing screenshots we were sent. This one had the caption, “Upload your pic or short looping video with a library of filters.” So far, so Instagram:

uplust upload

“Create your profile, follow others, and build your own following… on any device.”

uplust follow

“Participate in weekly community challenges.”

uplust challenge

“Play fun games in the app!”

uplust games

“Buy tokens to purchase ‘gifts’ for other users, get new features, or post exclusive content.”

uplust tokens

There are a number of things about this that I’m unwilling to report on breathlessly, as if Uplust really, actually addresses the issue of sexist censorship on Instagram. First of all, this is not Instagram for nudes so much as it’s an app version of /r/GoneWild (also deeply NSFW), which, by the way, has an advantage over any social app in the form of dedicated moderators who do meaningful work for a community of people who want to share nudes safely, anonymously, and without harassment. The Uplust policy page, by contrast, details no protections for its users in case someone doxxes them, identifies them, or harasses them. All you can do is report spam or block a user, which does nothing to remove toxic users from the app entirely, and the onus is constantly on the user to be vigilant about harassers rather than having the support of a moderation team who are also looking out for the user. This is SOP for social apps, but you’d think that a social app that involves sexual content would be more sensitive to its community’s safety needs.

Second, Uplust is basically a cam site. This is not revolutionary. This whole “tokens” system is precisely how cams work: “Send a gift to another user. It’s perfect to ask for a dedipic or a private show.” And that’s fine! But let’s call a duck a duck, shall we? This isn’t an answer to Instagram’s backward policies; it’s a cam site with an app.

And let’s talk math for a second. It’s difficult to make money through a cam site, because of commission. In the case of Uplust, you can cash out your tokens once you’ve accrued 2000 of them, which converts to $100. However, it would cost $170 to purchase 2000 tokens. That means Uplust is taking a 40 percent commission on your nudes. This is higher than the average of 35 percent commission on other cam sites.

Third, there’s the issue of how Uplust is marketed, which is to say that it’s marketed like a porn site, which is to say that it’s extremely conventional in the way it portrays beauty. The marketing photos are all of thin, conventionally beautiful women; the game it advertises encourages you to become the “King of Boobs” by matching the actresses of Game of Thrones to their topless shots on the show. When you go to the Uplust homepage, the photos that have drifted to the top are all of thin, conventionally beautiful women engaging in sexual behaviors that are deemed conventionally feminine by the porn industry. Literally: It’s all women and occasionally their heterosexual partners, as far as I have scrolled so far.

And that’s fine, again. There’s definitely a market for amateur porn of conventionally beautiful, conventionally feminine, heterosexual women, and if the people who are modeling on Uplust are fine with getting screwed on commission, that’s their prerogative (over time, five percent can mean a lot).

But what I object to is Uplust co-opting a movement that’s about gender equality and free speech – #FreeTheNipple – and using it to market an app that is for all intents and purposes just contingent to a conventional porn site. I object to that on the basis of that co-opting, and I object to it because gender equality in 2015 also means body acceptance and intersectionality, and all I see on Uplust is conventionally thin, pretty and mostly white, cis, heterosexual women.

It’s a bait-and-switch for Uplust’s marketing team to contact a women’s lifestyle blog that has engaged deeply on issues of intersectionality, queerness, and women’s rights and ask us to promote their app and their team as champions of free speech and gender equality – to use our reputation that we’ve cultivated by actually caring about these issues – in hopes that our readers will sign up for an app that has nothing, in fact, to do with #FreeTheNipple or anything but shilling porn made by amateurs who the app underpays.

I don’t have a problem with promoting products that seem genuinely interesting or that I’ve tried and really liked. The problem isn’t the relationship between marketers and bloggers: The problem is that some companies tell bloggers bold-faced lies about their mission and their product in order to use those blogs’ readership. Uplust is exploitative of the conversations that are happening about Instagram and its relationship to women’s rights, gender equality, and free speech, and it’s exploitative of blog readers who are interested in participating in those conversations.

And bottom line, Uplust is no answer to Instagram. #FreeTheNipple doesn’t demand an alternative to Instagram, it demands that Instagram treat all of its already dedicated users equally. Uplust does nothing to further or support that demand; it doesn’t care about equality, it’s just another boring porn site out for your money.

[Images via Uplust]

Send me a line at rebecca@thefrisky.com.