Ning, an online platform that allows people to create social networks, shut down a gay art and erotica site on Feb 7, according to the site’s members. Before it was yanked, Man Art had approximately 600 members and 10,000 uploaded pieces of art.
Ning, based in the United States, emailed the creators of Man Art on Jan 2, saying that adult content was not permitted. Although Ning spokespeople say their actions are not censorship, they requested that all the art be taken down and threatened to take the site offline.
Bruce Miller, the Ottawa moderator of Man Art, defended the posted material. “It is where gay men could go to explore their more sexual natures, but that’s not the only thing that is welcome on this site: any art produced by a gay man is up for grabs,” says Miller.
Miller says that when Man Art was established there were no rules regulating site content. “They changed their rules, and now they are going to kick us off,” he says.
Although Ning claimed in one of its emails that it had received a complaint from a user, Miller finds that doubtful. Man Art was a private site where members had to sign a disclaimer before setting up an account. According to Miller, “you had to have intent to go in.”
In 2008, Gina Bianchini, the co-founder of Ning and its CEO until 2010, announced on the company blog that Ning would be shutting down all adult social networks. Bianchini wrote that the decision was for practical reasons and not because “we no longer believe in the freedom to create your own social network for anything as long as it’s legal. We do. Practically though, supporting adult networks no longer makes sense.”
Although Miller and the creator of Man Art fought the decision, they were notified of the impending closure on Feb 3. While there are other social networking sites that host adult content, Miller plans to build a new site and have it hosted locally on an Ottawa server.