Looking for a safe and easy-to-use social networking platform that won’t censor you?
Switter was created specifically for the sex work industry and offers anyone involved in adult entertainment markets a free, decentralized service for social networking.
The idea was launched in response to the ever-increasing amount of censorship being applied to adult-content across mainstream social media and microblogging sites.
The result is a community driven platform that is free from any commercial and legislative control where erotic masseuses, escorts, cam girls, prostitutes and their clients can connect safely.
In this feature we take a closer look at Switter and find out more about why it was developed in the first place and how to use this social networking tool.
What is Switter?
Hosted on a free and open-source service, Switter is a social networking space specifically targeted at sex workers, and anybody making money from the sex business.
More specifically, it is a sub-network of the microblogging software platform Mastodon.
What is Mastodon?
Unlike many social media platforms, Mastodon is a decentralized system which means that there is no one server, company or person who runs it.
Instead, the content and the development of the network is all in the hands of the community of people who use it.
As a result, there is no censorship, corporate monetized advertising or ownership.
Instead, the service works like a series of interconnected WhatsApp groups and anyone can launch their own social networking service using Mastodon.
It’s an ideal way to bring together a community of like-minded people to network and share an online space with, free from any form of control.
The software is a god-send for many digital refugees and rebels who have been banned or barred from using traditional platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
It is a similar concept to Sharesome, another adult-friendly social platform, but with different execution. Banned Stories from BaDoink has also taken a novel approach to ‘uncensoring porn’ on social media.
Using sub-networks on Mastodon is free but the project is funded using crowdsourced investment so users are encouraged to donate.
What is Switter?
Switter is one of the thousands of specialist social sub-networks you can find on Mastodon.
The service was created by Assembly Four, an Australian team of tech, security and marketing specialists who believe in empowering people in the sex industry with the online means to stay safe and take control of the complex challenges that this work involves.
“Access to online platforms reduces the risk of violence for over 42 million sex workers worldwide. FOSTA/SESTA took these away, we’re here to bring them back.”Assembly Four – Mission Statement
One of the founders of Assembly Four, Lola Hunt, is herself a sex-worker and wanted to create a social network which was free from stigmatization, free from censorship and safe from the attempts of “misguided legislation” to shut down online advertising for sex work.
Why Use Switter?
Whilst Twitter has always had the reputation for being far more liberal and progressive than other social media networks, the truth is that many sex workers still find themselves subject to invasions of privacy and harassment.
And, with the introduction of the FOSTA/SESTA in 2018, platforms like Tumblr have seen bans on adult content across its services.
The result has been that sex workers (and other adult industry service providers) have found it increasingly hard to find social media and social networking sites where they can connect with others in their industry and their intended audience.
Switter aims to redress that balance and provide an open community where sex workers, clients and anyone involved in the industry can freely advertise, connect and screen one another.
The intentions of FOSTA/SESTA may be good and could be perceived by many as a bold attempt to put an end to sex trafficking.
But the fact remains that without adequate ways to advertise and screen online, many sex workers face a difficult and dangerous alternative to their professions.
Many street workers find that without online services they are forced to work for predatory parties and/or lose the protections that social networking offers them with screening potential clients.
Who Uses Switter?
Since its launch in 2018, Switter is being used by around 343,000 people from all around the world.
The site seems to be most popular in the United States as well as in Canada, United Kingdom and other parts of Europe including Germany and France.
From using Switter to report Bad Dates (and update the Bad Date List) for the benefit of other sex workers to advertising and social networking, the platform is used in a diverse number of ways.
Members are a mix of escorts, erotic masseuses, street prostitutes and body rub girls as well as clients (hobbyists).
The service is also used by male escorts and sex workers as well as by female ones.
In all, there are more than 9,100 active Switter listings posted over the last 30 days (correct as of October 2020) covering regions from Las Vegas and Washington in the United States to London, UK and Melbourne, Australia.
How To Use Switter
The whole design of Switter is similar in look and feel to social media management platforms like Hootsuite or TweetDeck.
In order to get started on Switter you will need to register an account with Mastodon and you can do this by heading to the main Switter website.
Groups on Mastodon are known as Instances and Switter is just one of these.
Choose a username for yourself and this becomes part of your @handle; so, if you register as ‘SaucyLadySweden‘ then your full Mastodon username will be SaucyLadySweden@Switter.at
Once this is done, you can then set up your full bio and profile details, start sending messages and following other members on Switter.
Posts are limited to 500 characters and are known as ‘Toots’ and, like Twitter, can contain photos, polls and videos.
You can also set your privacy on each Toot as well as flagging up whether your message contains any adult content.
Toots, like Tweets, can also contain emojis as well as the eponymous #. Used in the same way as on all other social media and social networking, a hashtag is the quickest way to find services and service providers in any area.
All Instances are run independently on Mastodon but even as a user on Switter you can remotely follow other Mastodon groups and users.
Known as the ‘Fediverse’, anyone or any group which you follow outside of Switter will be viewed in a separate timeline.
Timelines on Switter work much the same way as on Twitter and anyone who has used the latter platform will be familiar with the same features such as being able to reply to, boost (retweet) and favorite (like) a Toot.
There are three timelines available to viewers:
- Home – posts of people you follow
- Local – public posts of people in your Instance
- Federated – public posts from other members in the Fediverse
You can also send and receive private Direct Messages and browse profiles from the group.
If you want to start browsing for service providers in your area then you’ll want to head straight to the Switter Listings pages in which you can use geographical search terms or other keywords to filter results.
You can also browse the profile directory of other Switter users and discover members based on their interests.
How Much Does Switter Cost?
Just like almost all other social networking sites, Switter is entirely free to use.
However, it is worth mentioning here that due to the immense amount of work required to keep this platform running it is important to support the project where possible.
Donations can be made through their website or you can help support the Switter project by using another of Assemby Four’s services aimed at the sex work industry.
Tryst is a global escort and adult entertainer directory service that promotes ethical advertising and, like Switter, is focused on the social aspect.
Prices are competitive and don’t exploit advertisers with pricing models that charge commission.
Is There a Switter App?
Unlike Twitter and other social networking sites, there is no dedicated or specific app you can download for Switter.
HOWEVER, you can easily access Mastodon on your mobile device using apps like Amaroq, Tootdon and Mastalab.
As open-source software, it has been easy to create apps that allow you to access your Instance on your phone or tablet but be aware that some of these apps may cache activity and/or store session credentials and messages.
If you want to maintain full privacy and security then it is safer to use Switter as the service was intended using browser access only.
All featured images via Switter/Assembly Four.