Saturday 28th April 2012

This article was originally published on one of my Tumblr Blogs.  I was experimenting with the idea of separating my blogs, but it only showed to dilute the overall traffic.

 

Luluvise have been brought to my attention a couple of times recently.  They're the social network who hate men. 

Or at least they sure as hell don't want them in their pool.

Luluvise are, as far as I can tell, a british startup, based at a technology incubator/hub in East London.  This makes them subject to UK and EU legislation and law on discrimination.  

Traditionally, women were favoured by car insurance companies as a "safe bet". They're allegedly statistically less likely to do damage by car, and so their insurance was cheaper.

A recent ruling by the European Court of Justice basically made gender-based pricing unlawful.  In 2004, the European Court passed Directive 2004/113/EC1 which covers the discrimination on supply of goods and services, by gender, and makes it illegal.

2004/113/EC1 states that 

Such legislation should prohibit discrimination based on sex in the access to and supply of goods and services. Goods should be taken to be those within the meaning of the provisions of the Treaty establishing the European Community relating to the free movement of goods. Services should be taken to be those within the meaning of Article 50 of that Treaty.

Discrimination is primarily defined as either "direct" or "indirect".

Direct Discrimination:

where one person is treated less favourably, on grounds of sex, than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation.

Indirect Discrimination:

where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons of one sex at a particular disadvantage compared with persons of the other sex, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary

Legitimate aim is an exception that basically covers single-sex sports clubs and sporting events, and shelters for the protection of vulnerable persons.

I think you'd have to be particularly eccentric to describe a social network as a protection shelter.

There's also an exception covering financial and actuarial risk based on gender.  This has now been re-reviewed by the European Council, and that loophole has now been plugged.

Article 50 of the Treaty establishing the European Community [LONG!] states that:

Services shall be considered to be ‘services’ within the meaning of this Treaty where they are normally provided for remuneration, in so far as they are not governed by the provisions relating to freedom of movement for goods, capital and persons.

‘Services’ shall in particular include:
(a) activities of an industrial character;
(b) activities of a commercial character;
(c) activities of craftsmen;
(d) activities of the professions.
Without prejudice to the provisions of the Chapter relating to the right of establishment, the person providing a service may, in order to do so, temporarily pursue his activity in the State where the service is provided, under the same conditions as are imposed by that State on its own nationals.

So we can infer that a commercial activity, such as running a website, or a social network, is a) classified as a Service by the EC, and b) is a discrimination-free zone.

So there's definitely something afoot here.

The scope of the 2004 Directive covers: 

all persons who provide goods and services, which are available to the public irrespective of the person concerned as regards both the public and private sectors, including public bodies, and which are offered outside the area of private and family life


I think you'd be hard pushed to describe a social network as a service of family life. 

This Directive shall not apply to the content of media and advertising nor to education.

Whilst we refer to Social networks as Social Media, I still think it would be a particularly hard sell to refer to that as "content of media", which is likely to refer more to TV and film production content.

So the Principles in the 2004 Directive state that:

there shall be no direct discrimination based on sex, including less favourable treatment of women for reasons of pregnancy and maternity

And

there shall be no indirect discrimination based on sex.

Boiled down, the TL;DR version is this:

Discrimination can be either direct or indirect.  Direct is stating for example, "we don't sell to women, or we don't sell to men".  An example of Indirect Discrimination might be having a rule banning people with breasts from your supermarket.

Unless you're running a Womens' Football League, or Shelter for whipped wives, or making a film about women, you can't discriminate on the grounds of gender.

Running a social network that's inclusively for women... Does. Not. Count.

If I visit luluvise.com, and hit "Sign up with Facebook", I get a snappy little error message telling me I can't. Because I'm male.

Luluvise hates me

If that ain't gender-based discrimination, then I don't know what is.

@jack found the same thing earlier today. 

Luluvise hates @jack too.

While he's not in the UK or EU, Luluvise are, and their registered office being in London, makes them subject to the same rules and regulations as everybody else.

Personally, this doesn't bother me, I don't want to know what my female friends (all 4 of them) are saying about me behind my back.  Probably nothing, because being a massive gay, I've never dated any of my female friends.

I bet that if I announced a male-only social network, I'd have ultrafeminists breathing fire down my back quicker than you can say "Germaine Greer".

Footnote: Luluvise (or lulu vise, to make it translate) is Croatian for "pipe more".  I only went looking for this because I was convinced when I learnt German, that 'lulu' was slang for 'twat'.

Somewhat interestingly, @tomscott also has bones to pick with Luluvise, but more surrounding their privacy policy and the Data Protection Act

It also looks like TechCrunch have already puzzled over the legality of Luluvise, if from a somewhat different standpoint.

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