Social media safety tools suck
Have you ever thought about the safety tools in social platforms? More specifically, have you thought about how insufficient & unreliable they are? I’ve thought about these tools a lot. I think about them as we’re building Diem. I think about what building a “safe space” online really means in practice—who it entrusts with power and who it’s designed to keep out. If I’m being honest, I’ve been thinking about this for almost a decade, since I was 19, which is when I first started amassing a significant following on social media.
When we talked with Laurie Segall last week in Diem (listen here), we discussed the importance of building ethical and inclusive practices into the next generation of immersive platforms. A veteran tech journalist, Laurie was one of the first reporters to interview folks like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, so she’s also been thinking about social platform safety for...a long time. For her, one of the biggest red flags amongst the Facebooks and Twitters of the world was their approach to protecting their user base. Historically, it’s been somewhat careless. And it’s not really changing, as we’re seeing in real-time with the inadequate safety features in
Meta Facebook’s new metaverse.
I’ve often likened the current “safety” on big social media platforms to the advice commonly given to women walking alone at night. You know what I mean...
“Wear shoes you can run in.”
“Don’t wear a short skirt.”
“Put your keys between your fingers.”
In other words, much like this largely unhelpful advice, modern safety features in social spaces typically place the onus on victims to solve the problem inflicted onto them. Victims of harassment have to self-report, remove themselves from online communities, and limit their overall experience on a platform when they do nothing wrong. Like the advice given to women walking home alone, this approach fails to address the root cause: there is persistent violence against women baked into modern digital societies and it keeps us on high alert at all times. The safety features in Facebook’s metaverse allow harassment victims to put a protective bubble around themselves so other avatars can’t come close to them. Why can’t you put a bubble around a person harassing you? Why are you the one who has to experience a pared-down social world because of a harasser’s actions? Surely, placing a warning sign on a bad actor and limiting their experience should be the approach?
Sadly, the problem doesn’t stop at safety features. “Catcalling” is a thing on social media and it’s happening all the time in your DMs. The language we commonly use on social channels is also questionable—isn’t it creepy that we “follow” people given the lived experience of so many women in the real world? Being “followed” home is not something we strive for.
There is a dire need for online spaces that are designed with safety, inclusivity, and ethics at the forefront. This doesn’t mean designing reactionary safety features when things go very very wrong. It means designing digital worlds where safety is baked into every nook and cranny of the platform itself. Where does this start? I think we could all benefit from a nod to real-world community management. For example, there’s a nightclub in Brooklyn called Nowadays where you get a speech on community and principles when you enter the venue. On the dance floor they also have samaritans identifiable via a green band who will help you deal with incidents. Starting from the moment you enter, everyone in the club is equally incentivized to look out for each other. Wouldn’t it be amazing if digital spaces did the same thing?
One of the biggest problems with moderation is that it’s currently centralized, which lends itself well to bias and simply doesn’t scale, as we have seen time again. Putting the power into the hands of engaged and diverse community members works to solve that and creates more incentives for the humans in your community to engage.
What do you think? If you could design a safe space online, how would you design it? No bad ideas.
No really, we want to hear your ideas.
What we’re reading…
📷 My miscarriage, in photos. (The Cut)
📝 Explaining the awful Missouri abortion law involving ectopic pregnancies. Celebrity gynecologist Jen Gunter weighs in. (The Vajenda)
🚽 The ladies room. An excellent essay by Nancy Powaga on navigating bathrooms as a trans non-binary person and the fight for dignity for trans lives. (The Audacity)
Catch up on what went down in the Diem’s last week via our weekly Briefing.
Who we’re Dieming with…
To “Diem with” someone means to candidly exchange knowledge. Here’s a selection of knowledge going live (in the Diem app) this week.
Rising through the professional ranks with Female Founder Collective co-founder, Ali Wyatt. Live as of 6PM EST MONDAY, listen here.
Managing your money in a volatile economy with financial writer & advisor, Kristin O’Keefe Merricks. Live as of 7PM EST MONDAY, listen here.
60 Female Founder Interviews: Top Lessons with podcast hosts Jasmine Garnsworthy & Mady Maio. Going live TODAY 12.30PM PST | 3.30PM EST | 8.30PM GMT. Listen here.
Class Act: How To Behave In Your 30s with Asees Singh & Divia Singh. Going live TODAY 2PM PST | 5PM EST. Listen here.
Cultivating authenticity & accountability in web3 with Dayna Trocki DeStefano & Crypto Jo. Going live WEDNESDAY 10AM EST | 3PM GMT. Listen here.
Why “belonging” is what’s missing in D & I with Mahasin Phillips & Karen Chambers. Going live WEDNESDAY 2PM PST | 5PM EST. Listen here.
Learn from a celebrity matchmaker with Carmelia Ray. Going live WEDNESDAY 2.30PST | 5.30PM EST. Listen here.
How to use your voice to be assertive with Hitha Palepu. Going live THURSDAY 9AM PST | 12PM EST | 5PM GMT. Listen here.
The mysteries of female biology: orgasms with Deena Emera, PhD. Going live THURSDAY 9.30AM PST | 12.30PM EST. Listen here.
Building allyship in men with Janna Meyrowitz Turner. Going live THURSDAY 2PM PST | 5PM EST. Listen here.
Health is wealth: crypto, why you should care with SheFi founder, Maggie Love. Going live FRIDAY 1PM EST. Listen here.
See you next time,
PS. If you’re enjoying what you’re learning in Diem, we’d love if you could give us an App Store rating.