Consider the internet's landscape for a second: an overwhelming deluge of cultural detritus, often more responsible for furrowed brows and morbid curiosity than genuflection. While we've got the likes of Christian Mingle and J-Date for personals, it's difficult to cultivate a religious garden out of a more platonically-oriented social network. But here we are: Facegloria, Brazil's religious counterpart to Facebook.
As Facebook has become a free speech home that intermixes the faithful with non-religious folks, the four co-founders of the company, who work for the city of Ferraz de Vasconcelos in Brazil, decided it was time to give the religious their own space. That's not insignificant considering that Brazil has the world's largest population of Catholics and the second largest population of Christians, according to a 2011 Pew study.
The site currently features a newsfeed where users can post updates and comments, follow other users, listen to what other people are listening to on Soundcloud, and upload photos. Instead of liking something, you "amen" it.
"Our network is global. We have bought the Faceglory domain in English and in all possible languages. We want to take on Facebook and Twitter here and everywhere," Acir dos Santos, mayor of Ferraz de Vasconcelos, told the BBC.
The news should come as a relief for the faithful looking for a social network that looks and functions like a website—there's a surprising lack of Catholic faith-based social networks, and whatever does exist looks like it was cut out of a MySpace-era hellscape, such as hisholyspace.com.
While Facegloria is still in beta and only available in Portuguese, founder Atila Barros told the AFP that the site gained 100,000 users in the first month it went up.
The site bans sexually explicit content, swearing (the list runs 600 words apparently), violent and erotic content. There's also a team of 20 volunteers moderating the site, tasked with removing offensive posts. I've taken them up to the task, but apparently the site doesn't automatically filter posts with swears in them:
Then again, I'm not posting porn or anything remotely objectionable. It's entirely possible the moderation team is dealing with bigger issues as the site gains more and more press attention.
The site prohibits (or at least promises to prohibit) posting gay content. It's a decision that runs slightly against national opinion—Brazil's National Council of Justice legalized gay marriage in Brazil in 2013 and 60 percent of the population said homosexuality was acceptable, comparable to figures in the US. It's an understandable decision given that religion and propriety are central to its direction, but the internet has a bit of a reputation when it comes to impinging on free speech rights.
This might be the first major Catholic social network that looks a part of this decade, and it might be easy to market to hundreds of millions of religious Brazilians. But population doesn't quantify success, and Facegloria might have a ways to go if they want to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.