Building community-driven moderation systems for a more inclusive online experience
CARVING OUT SPACE TO CONNECT MORE DEEPLY. As the founder of Lips, Annie Brown understands that inclusion is essential for progress. Lips is a feminist technology organization in the forefront of the inclusive design movement, building products designed to unlock opportunities for previously underserved and intersectionally marginalized communities. Lips' first product is a social media platform designed for women, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ identified individuals seeking a space to express themselves through art without the unhealthy aspects of mainstream internet culture such as online harassment, censorship, and plagiarism. In this secure forum, queer people feel free to express their feelings about sexuality and identity in ways they might not otherwise.
While the project quickly took off and was widely enjoyed, Annie found it was an extremely healing experience too for herself and others. “People would come up to me and say they’d never been given a space to really openly talk about these issues. Before long, Lips became a true campus magazine. And we had to fight a bit, given the sometimes erotic or personal nature of the work, but it happed and even continued after graduation. But I never imagined it would become my career, or something entirely new.” She says.
INVITING ALL LEVELS OF INCLUSIVITY, INTENTIONALLY. After a few years, Lips evolved from print to a digital, social media platform. Knowing that traditional algorithms for these kinds of platforms are primarily designed by white heterosexual, CIS men, Annie and her team wanted to create a new kind of technological experience, that allows for openness and honesty, but also pushed past the constructs of censorship that plagued queer communities online.
Using patent-pending machine learning and blockchain applications, Lips is redesigning and advancing how women and gender queers are able to inclusively communicate, connect and share within the larger community that Lips has attracted. Brown forsees the moderation system, data sets, and algorithms built within the Lips platform will be used across industries to improve the online experience of traditionally marginalized communities.
“Lips applies all feminist and queer theory to technology to create solutions that improve all people’s lives, not just the queer community, by making the internet and digital technologies more inclusive.” As an openly Bi, gender-fluid founder, this intentionally applied theory isn’t just refreshing, it’s life-affirming for everyone involved in the company.
One of the hidden attributes of the LGBTQ+ community has been being able lift the current culture into a stronger place of self-acceptance and authenticity. “The team at Lips skews a bit younger, but they are so diverse and inclusive. My team is able to be their whole selves all the time, everyday. We are creating our own light in the darkness, pushing past the superficial to not just embrace diversity and equity, but fully represent it.”
“For example, we do allow for erotic art and we openly support sex workers. And that’s essential, because I believe that supporting the LGBTQ community means creating space for those who, until now, have been forced to exist on the margins. We bring these voices to the center of our design, development, and mission. To me, a digital space that is truly LGBTQIA inclusive must allow for creative expressions of queerness, trauma, joy, and all the many other complexities that make our community beautiful and unique."