Louise Mensch, the Conservative backbencher who has gained a high profile thanks in part to her prolific tweeting, has created a rival to Twitter that aims to cut out the irrelevant chatter that she says blights the microblogging site.Working with Luke Bozier, a former aide to Tony Blair who defected to the Tories in January, Mrs Mensch today unveiled Menshn (pronounced “mention”), a social media service for “talking on topic”.
The service is initially only available in the United States and aiming attract online discussion about the upcoming presidential election. It is scheduled to open to British members in time for the Olympics.
Menshn owes much to Twitter in its design and concept, with members invited to post short messages and links. The main difference is that it restricts discussions to pre-approved topics, with the aim of avoiding the spam messages that popular hashtags attract on Twitter.
Twitter: Louise Mensch – We hope all our US followers passionate about politics will try http://t.co/CgcaXCpI and UK users can register for updates – live here soon.
Menshn will allow members 180 characters in which to condense their thoughts, as opposed to Twitter’s 140. New members also instantly gain 100 subscribers – the equivalent of Twitter’s followers – at random to allow them to join in straight away.
Discussion is initially restricted to just three topics: the Obama campaign, the Romney campaign and the election generally. More will be added in response to nominations from members.
“It came out of both a love of and frustration with Twitter,” said Mr Bozier, who has and 50 per cent share in the new company, matching Mrs Mensch’s. The pair have funded the venture themselves.
“Twitter is just very a very random stream of chatter if you want to stick top a particular topic like politics or business,” Mr Bozier said
As well as keeping discussions relevant, Mrs Mensch and Mr Bozier hope Menshn’s more controlled environment will also discourage abuse.
The MP for Corby, who has almost 60,000 Twitter followers, has been targeted by explicit and violent “misogynistic” messages on after television appearances. She recently called on social networks to identify the perpetrators of such abuse, after Frank Zimmerman, a 60-year-old Gloucester, was convicted and received a suspended sentence for a campaign of online harassment and threats against her family.
Mr Bozier said menshn would still allow anonymous membership, however, although people will be encouraged to log in with their Facebook account, which is supposed to use their real name.
Early reaction to Menshn from Twitter members was mixed. Some accused Mrs Mensch of egotism and seeking to control debate. Critics also said Menshn merely copied the functionality of chatrooms and the presentation of Twitter.
Twitter: Christopher Pittard – I’ve just found out about #menshn . That is surely the funniest thing this month, and this month includes the BBC’s flotilla coverage
Mrs Mensch previously attracted scorn on Twitter when she suggested it should be shut down during the riots last summer.
Supporters claimed the “spiteful” reaction to Menshn on Twitter demonstrated the need for it.
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