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Lips is a sharing platform with a social mission: to improve the mental-health and self-esteem of its readers by providing an uncensored space for signed or anonymous artistic expression.
Lips founder Annie Brown believes that one of the most impactful applications of blockchain could be its role in reducing the negative impact of technology (especially social media) on young women’s mental health.
“The Internet as it exists today is not a great place for women,” says Brown, “this is in part because the majority of technologies that make up our online communities were created by men.”
Brown believes that " diversity in tech matters because technology is political, and who makes decisions in technology matters. ” As such, Lips aims to integrate feminist philosophy directly into their UX, code and algorithms with the aim of building a better Internet for everyone, especially young women.
Cryptography, according to Brown, presents the opportunity to have honest discussions on the internet, rather than carefully crafted/Photoshopped distortions of reality we see today in social media.
Using blockchain technology, women can post anything anonymously while still claiming authorship and being compensated. For young women, this could mean online expressive outlets that are safe, healthy and lucrative.
Read the full article on Forbes
After Tumblr’s ban on adult content in December, Annie Brown, a San Diego-based digital marketer and feminist activist, noticed sex workers and sexually expressive artists were “floating around the internet with nowhere to go because they were told that they’re unwanted or inappropriate,” she said. She’s now working to transform Lips, the sex-positive magazine she founded years ago, into a social media site where users can freely embrace and share their sexuality.
Raising awareness about this initiative has been a challenge, she said. Lips’ Instagram account, @lips_zine, has had its posts deleted and, Brown believes, algorithmically demoted.
“Bots can’t tell the difference between erotic art and pornography,” she said. “So now with Instagram [demoting] ‘suggestive’ content, they’re basically saying, ‘We don’t care if it’s art, we don’t care if it’s activism, we don’t care if it’s self-expression.’”
PROVIDED BY LIPS
Brown said she’s rushing to raise funds for Lips’ web and mobile app development because she’s concerned that sex workers who are turning away from Instagram and other major sites may feel like they have no choice but to seek out alternative spaces that could be less safe.
“If I’m a cam-girl and I want to make videos in the privacy of my home, but I’m not able to promote myself via social media, then it’s harder for me to make a living from my cam-girl page,” she explained. “So I’m going to think about in-person sex work, which increases safety risks and decreases my control over my work.”
Online censorship of sexuality has already made digital work a less viable option for sex workers, according to a lawsuit filed against the federal government by the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, a national human rights organization. It claims censorship affecting sex workers as a result of FOSTA-SESTA has caused them to lose income and has exposed them to greater risks of offline violence.
Lips is a cryptographic creative sharing platform for women and LGBTQ persons. We address the problem of online censorship of art, self-expression and promote the free, open and honest sharing of experiences, trauma, and pleasure as to paint a more complete picture of womanhood and sexuality, as well as providing a space where anonymity is protected, compensated and does not mean sacrificing intellectual property.
This company began as a project for an Introduction to Women’s Studies course I took while attending The College of William and Mary. The assignment was to identify a problem on campus and then solve it. I chose to address the issue that many W&M students were uncomfortable discussing sex and sexuality. To address this issue my friends and I created a print zine where women and the LGBTQ community could contribute art, poetry, essays, (anything!) to express themselves and we put it all together in a beautiful publication.
The project was so popular that (despite attempted censorship by the administration) we became an official campus publication, and opened five chapters at campuses across the SouthEast US.
Flash forward to now, after working as Communications Director for two Y Combinator startups, as well as serving as Marketing Director for The Women’s Startup Lab in Palo Alto – I decided it was time to digitize Lips and work towards building a better Internet for women.
In February 2017, a former Uber engineer published a blog post about her experiences with sexual harassment at the company—and unwittingly started a movement. A year later, has the tech industry done anything to change the climate that Fowler described?
Annie Brown is the founder of Lips, a sharing platform for women and the LGBTQ+ communities marginalized by existing sharing platforms, with their track-record of problems with privacy, censorship and harassment. Brown’s platform (which will begin beta testing this fall) is unique in that it will directly address issues of algorithmic bias affecting women, queer persons and people of color by incorporating intersectional feminist philosophy at the root of their platform’s algorithmic AI.
Why incorporate philosophy into an AI algorithm?
It's tough to identify our own biases and, thus, extremely tricky to spot and prevent biases in AI technology. If there is an answer to the problem, it lies in the data and people behind the machines. If you're not conscious of the biases in the training data, then you won’t be able to prevent the replication of those patterns on a larger, algorithmic scale. Racial, gender or other biases in the data or coding of the algorithm can have a serious impact on the lives of already disadvantaged groups.
For example, Instagram’s latest algorithm update scans for “suggestive” posts to delete or shadowban - yet, “suggestive” is defined by who writes and approves the code. As a result of these uninterrogated and unacknowledged perspectives, biased algorithms systematically affect women, queer, POC, plus sized and disabled bodied content creators.
In order to address existing biases in AI, we at Lips are building a diverse team familiar with intersectional feminism (how different aspects of social and political discrimination overlap) to lead the development of AI algorithms for the platform.
Lips Founder, Annie Brown speaks on the topic of cryptography and female expression.
Lips is an online platform designed for women and LGBTQ individuals seeking a space to express themselves through art without the unhealthy aspects of mainstream internet culture such as censorship and online harassment.
Lips crowdfunding campaign video - copyright 2019