The Spaces app is worth following
Queer Spaces Inc (Spaces) is quickly becoming an example of social innovation and a force for good. As the biggest social media platforms continue to fail LGBTQ+ users, the emerging tech titan is making their safety his top priority. Recently touted as Apple’s “app of the day,” the burgeoning startup was launched in March 2022 by parent company Hornet Networks. Hornet, the world’s largest queer technology platform with over 35 million diverse users, has been a central player in digital inclusion since 2011. The Spaces app is hot on the heels as an extension of the passion of the company for advanced technologies that enable users to build safer communities centered on shared interests and authentic connections.
A 2021 report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found that 64% of LGBTQ people experience more bullying, harassment, and algorithmic aggression than any other demographic group online. This abuse is compounded when racism, sexism and other biases coexist.
“Over the past few years, all major social media platforms have become toxic pits of hate, with the bulk of the harassment directed at LGBTQ+ people of color,” Shon Washington told Forbes. The Tulsa-based Navy veteran and longtime Twitter user currently hosts more than a dozen different communities on the Spaces app. “It’s nice to see a new platform so far removed from all the doomscrolling and negativity. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with other queer people on Spaces – something I didn’t even know was possible anymore .
In 2021, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) partnered with Ranking Digital Rights and Goodwin Simon Strategic Research to tackle the rise of cyber-violence head-on. The Social Media Safety Index (SMSI) was developed soon after to help foster transparency and accountability, while providing companies with useful feedback and tools to make their platforms safer. Not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but also for other vulnerable groups.
The 2022 edition of the WSIS included a digital scorecard through which platforms were digitally rated on safety, privacy and LGBTQ+ expression. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube collectively failed, scoring less than 50% out of 100. The latest WSIS also revealed that 84% of LGBTQ+ adults believe platforms are not doing enough to mitigate queerphobic hate. Additionally, 40% of all LGBTQ+ adults and 49% of trans and non-binary users report feeling unsafe or unwelcome on social media.
“The LGBTQ+ community desperately needs safe digital spaces. Frankly, the big social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and others – have completely abdicated any duty to protect queer people from harm,” says Christof Wittig, CEO of Queer Spaces, Inc. “So we at Spaces are excited to provide the queer community with this platform. We are the first app truly for all segments of the LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, what we create is a place where we can feel safe and able to be our most authentic selves. Nothing is more important than that.”
The current socio-political climate supports Wittig’s sentiments. With over 325 anti-LGBTQ bills in circulation, including 130 specifically targeting trans people, safe spaces are more crucial than ever. While members of the LGBTQ+ community generally share a special affinity for one another, their hobbies and lived experiences often vary. Spaces prides itself on connecting users to their point of interest, rather than monolithic notions of what it means to be queer or trans. According to GLAAD’s WSIS 2021, 88% of queer and trans people shared a preference for gay-led communities over heteronormative platforms. Each group chat presents a unique opportunity for members to pursue their common passions and interests without the threat of hate or discrimination.
“Social media is extremely hostile towards the queer community, especially trans and non-binary people. The big platforms don’t particularly care about us and our safety,” says Tori Lima, who hosts spaces for DC Comics LGBTQ+ fans and LGBTQ+ hockey fans. According to Lima, being visible on larger platforms tends to be extremely dangerous and can even lead to doxxing and death threats. “The Spaces app resolves this hostility by creating an environment for queer people to safely discuss our interests. It’s amazing to be able to talk about queer comic book characters without worrying that the wrong person will see your tweet or message. and starts harassing you.
From gay men and running enthusiasts, to gay parenting groups, hiking clubs, healing arts practitioners, gay Star Wars fans, and more, there’s space on the app for everyone. Otherwise, users can easily create one in seconds. The platform’s discovery tool makes it easy to attract members to help each newly created community thrive. Spaces has become a timely solution to the growing demand for platforms that promote organic connections rather than profit-driven programs that further marginalize people.
In June 2022, Spaces (via Hornet) released a ten-point pledge, the first of its kind, that stands apart from other social media platforms. The Safety Pledge encapsulates the company’s commitment to making LGBTQ+ safety its top priority.
Here are the 10 points of the Safety Pledge. Learn more about each point here.
1. We are committed to creating and maintaining social media platforms where hate, harassment and other abuse have no place.
2. We are committed to ensuring that our moderation policies are transparent and free from the anti-LGBTQ bias inherent in so many platforms.
3. We are committed to always fighting fraud and other abusive behavior that plagues many platforms.
4. We are committed to ensuring that the physical security of our users always remains a top priority.
5. We are committed to ensuring that the health and well-being of users is an integral part of our heritage.
6. We are committed to always making authenticity a key value in our products, in a way that meets the unique needs of our LGBTQ+ community.
7. We are committed to protecting the personal data of our users at all costs and we are committed to ensuring that all of our users have both access to and control over their own data and privacy.
8. We are committed to relying only on technologies (including algorithms and AI) that do not exploit or unfairly treat LGBTQ people and other vulnerable communities.
9. We are committed to resisting overly broad or inappropriate government access to our users and their data.
10. We pledge to waive revenue from bad actors and queerphobic entities of all kinds, including corporations and government entities.
The Safety Pledge is rapidly gaining popularity among members of the LGBTQ community because it was developed with input from various organizations, community partners, and thought leaders around the world. If the spaces for users to exercise full ownership of their groups were not enough, for a limited time they can also own part of the business. On August 11, the platform launched a crowdfunding campaign on Wefunder, raising almost $714,000 in less than 2 weeks. LGBTQ+ people and their allies can now invest in the app for as little as $100. Learn more here.
Spaces is available for download from the Apple App Store here.