Building Safe Networks Makes Social Media Less Toxic

In the 15 years of its existence, social media has gone from a place to keep in touch with friends and family to a toxic breeding ground. The majority of social networks are built on the principles of a masculine and privileged economy where likes, comments, shares and followers pay the social currency. When platforms reside under the malicious state cache, they create and reinforce unsafe spaces for marginalized classes. Next year, the tech industry will take concrete steps to address and correct this imbalance.

For marginalized people, social media can feel like they’re in an abusive relationship. Globally, research by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that 85 percent of women have witnessed online violence against other women (including those outside their networks). For BIPOC individuals, those in the LGBTQ+ community and other disadvantaged groups, abuse is often much worse, silencing voices and a risk to general mental well-being, which will continue to increase due to lack of regulation.

In 2022, we will see the emergence of more safe spaces online for disadvantaged groups. Traditional social networks will finally provide improved reporting and moderation, giving people more control over their online experiences. They will also be joined by curated communities that foster greater intimacy, while at the same time serving as support systems where members feel safe to share personal stories, uplift and help each other feel visible and included.

When we were building Peanut, a social network dedicated to providing a safe space for women online, we reimagined society through the lens of the female economy and created a value system based on care, community, and safety. By turning these values ​​into the core of our product, we have found that we are able to provide a secure online space that facilitates real and purposeful connections across real-life experiences that unite women. Our ultimate goal has always been driven by our users. Their desire to be weak, treacherous, and honest has led us to build something to protect this – free of hate, trolling, and control. Next year, I hope other social networks will follow suit.

To achieve this, the tech community’s journey to more equitable platforms must begin with a redefinition of social capital, so that empathy and collectivism are valued over individual strength and standing. As we increasingly understand the need for safer online spaces, social currency will be earned through acts of kindness, adding value to conversations and showing support for others in their most vulnerable moments, rather than being paid to monetize ads or data collection.

Tinder has already done an important job in this area. Rather than insisting that users verify their accounts by submitting a selfie, for example, I’ve realized that some users don’t show pictures of themselves for safety reasons – particularly women and LGTBQ+ people outside the US. The solution was to let them use another form of verification, such as a driver’s license. By doing this, Tinder creates a network where people can feel safe when making new connections online.


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