Of Course People are Getting Naked on Periscope

What is it about the internet that makes us want to strip?

Mar 27 2015, 8:25pm

​Image: Flickr/​Marion Doss

​Periscope has a lot of potential. It could potentially be a valuable resource for breaking news, and it could potentially be a privacy nightmare, for example. But regardless of potentials, one thing is certain: people are going to get naked on it, because this is the internet. And they are.

Periscope is the Twitter-backed competitor to Meerkat, the live streaming app that took the tech world by storm after it launched in March. Periscope launched Thursday morning, and by that afternoon it was being used by celebrities, citizen journalists, and all kinds of folks to share a slice of their lives. That night, I had a nice experience chatting with a sheep farmer about his livestock. After that, it wasn't long before I saw a dick.

Scrolling through my Periscope feed this morning, I stumbled across several streams that could be considered, well, at least a tad lewd. A bespectacled man who looked like an older DJ Qualls gave everyone a good look at his floppy pink member because someone asked. A young woman with red hair bared her breasts for the same reason.

These were the only instances of straight up nudity that I caught in my short time on Periscope—so far, anyway. But there were still plenty of perverts to pick up the slack.

One woman's stream consisted of a shot of her naked stomach and one hand under the sheets while she moaned and a vibrator rattled through my iPhone's tinny speakers. A young man—sitting in what was, I assume based on the decor, a high school cafeteria—with a stream titled "Pornhub office" continually panned the camera down to his denim-clad erect penis, which he stroked as his friends ate, unaware. I gave up using Periscope for a bit after that.

There's something about visual media that we can't resist exploiting for our own carnal ends

Periscope's community guidelines explicitly state that user may not "post pornographic or overtly sexual content." While Twitter maintains that the company is not responsible for the content that goes up on Periscope—kind of a watch-at-your-own-risk-type deal—a Twitter representative told me that "pornography is not allowed on Periscope, and when reported, broadcasts featuring this type of content will be removed from the service and the user subject to suspension."

It's also worth noting that Periscope accounts are tied to Twitter accounts, which means that more often than not that there is personally identifiable information attached to these streams. For example, a Twitter account might display a person's real name or location, if the Periscope stream itself doesn't.

You might assume, as I did, that this would deter people from using Periscope to bare their naked bodies to the world, perhaps electing to strip with the relative anonymity and narrower audience of Snapchat. Not so. Why? It's hard to say, but maybe there's just something about visual media that we can't resist exploiting for our own carnal ends at this point.

Take Chatroulette, for example. Chatroullette is a website that launched in 2009 as a way for strangers around the world to connect. By 2010, one in eight chatroullette sessions resulted in nudity, according to a study of the site's data. Vine, another of Twitter's video services, was similarly overtaken by digital exhibitionists and voyeurs soon after its launch. A porn video was even chosen as an "editor's pick" thanks to a "human error."

It looks like Periscope is going down a similar path to Chatroullette and Vine, although whether it will actually affect the app's mainstream acceptance or not remains to be seen. It's worth noting, however, that Vine seems to be doing just fine. It's just a reality of the internet that people, given the opportunity, are going to get naked.