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There are fewer and fewer places for sex workers, sex educators, and adult content creators to find a home online. Lips , a new social network geared towards free sexual expression, aims to provide that space. Founder Annie Brown and her team want users — sex workers, erotic artists, queer people, activists, and more — to post without fear of censorship or harassment.

It's a much needed alternative to mainstream social networks. While Facebook was busy splitting hairs about nipple photos in , it took insurrectionists storming the Capitol for Mark Zuckerberg to ban Donald Trump , who spouted misinformation on the platform for years.

But Facebook is far from the only network that bans basically any type of adult content like gasp! Instagram, which Facebook owns, changed their terms of use in December; sex educators are already saying their content is being censored. TikTok is "purging" users with OnlyFans in their bios. If one isn't straight-up banned, they could be shadowbanned, or blocked from advertising. Regardless of the flavor, these actions by social networks silence marginalized voices and hurt them financially. While some statistics of social media shutting out certain voices are public — such as how 73 percent of neutral or positive LGBTQ news from LGBTQ publishers is incorrectly flagged due to brands' blacklisted keywords — it's difficult to get a true sense of just how far it goes.

Trying to tease out quantitative and qualitative measures of censorship and its impact is part of Lips's community manager Val Elefante's role. This includes deleting posts, shadow banning, and removing s and hashtags totally. In her research, Elefante is trying to prove something many adult content creators already know: Censorship is rampant on social media. Gabrielle Alexa , author of the upcoming How to Live With the Internet and sex-positive content creator, said she's had posts removed from TikTok and had her Instagram banned though unlike others, hers was quickly restored.

TikTok has been the most aggressive in Alexa's experience. As an example, she described a video she made for online sex shop Honey Play Box. As a part of the "old fashioned" TikTok trend, Alexa kneaded dough and said it was like how she feels using her hands to masturbate instead of a toy. TikTok removed it. It wasn't even sexual in the action I portrayed," she said. Honey Play Box, like many adult brands, isn't able to advertise on Facebook or Instagram. This means that they rely on influencers and organic posts for social media marketing. When platforms like TikTok remove their content, it hurts their livelihoods.

It's not fair or right. It's not healthy or helpful," said Elefante. Brown attributed these mass deletions to laziness on the part of huge platforms. What's more is that these companies don't value certain voices. Trojan or male erectile dysfunction medications don't suffer the same shadowbanning. Barbara Bickham, founder and CTO at Trailyn Ventures and Lips's technical advisor, was partly attracted to the platform because she witnessed people in the blockchain and cryptocurrency worlds be deplatformed and demonetized in late and early She later met Brown at a blockchain summit in Los Angeles in where Brown was trying to understand how to utilize blockchain in creating a new social network and learned about her mission to help marginalized communities who had also been deplatformed.

Knowing deplatforming was already happening in other spheres, Bickham knew how much of a problem it was. When Bickham came in, she suggested that Lips be a progressive web app. The site's functionality matches one of an app, and when opened on a phone a pop-up tells the user how to add it to one's home screen. Once downloaded and onto the home screen, it opens like any other app. The reasoning was multifold. For one, creating a progressive web app is more cost effective than an iOS or Android app.

For another, thousands upon thousands of apps release on the App Store each month. Bickham wanted Lips to cut through all that noise — to not even deal with the App Store. Even if Lips had decided on an iOS or Android app, though, they may not have gotten past the stores' approval processes. Apple banned sexual content from the App Store in , so the team knew early on that spending resources on creating an app may be for nought. The progressive web app is just one way Lips's mission has seeped into its backend. The team held co-deing sessions, such as with queer youth, to discuss what features were important to them.

When using the platform, a user can autogenerate their photo-based feed or they can choose tags themselves. The first option is pretty typical: picking what topics you like. Then, Lips asks the user what they don't want to see.

Further, trolls aren't allowed on Lips. In theory, they're not allowed anywhere, but Lips has taken steps to assure this in their UX. Instagram doesn't seem to differentiate between trolling efforts to remove an and a genuine effort to remove harmful s. In the face of Instagram's new terms, Alexa, the sex-positive content creator, saw that peers were building private servers to house their content.

That route didn't appeal to her — but Lips did. Lips allows Alexa the freedom of being able to post what she wants while maintaining her Instagram audience of almost 30, Other users have expressed a similar feeling of freedom. Unapologetically Me. As a user, she hopes that more people of color start utilizing the platform, and for more features in the future. The Lips team has similar hopes. Elefante said they will continue to build with users' feedback at every stage; users are already sending ideas for the future.

Brown said that they're aiming to do a marketing push, as well, which will hopefully introduce more people to the platform. For so long, companies like Facebook have focused on growth, on getting as many people as possible on the platform. This has been detrimental in terms of content moderation, as evidenced by the very reasons Lips now exists. Bickham believes niches are the way moving forward, citing the success of Facebook groups and Clubhouse rooms as well as Substack and Patreon, where people pay for specialized content.

One takeaway Elefante has gotten in working with Lips is similar: A social network for everyone isn't realistic. Instagram has its value — like connecting to old friends, for example — but Elefante believes people want a digital community like their small, safe communities in the physical world. Going into , Brown and her team want Lips to be a space where its community thrives.

They're currently fundraising, something that has historically been a challenge for sex tech entrepreneurs such as Cindy Gallop. Considering that toy brand Lora DiCarlo and audio erotica platform Dipsea secured millions in funding in recent years, however, the tide may be turning for sex-driven startups. In terms of features, Brown wants to launch a Lips marketplace. As with the platform itself, they want the marketplace to be where shops that Instagram has stymied can find a home.

They'll also implement a machine learning system that Brown hopes will collect smarter data about online sexual content. Overall, however, they just want Lips to be a respite for those who've been shut out of other social networks. Social Good. Lips social network Credit: lips. I'm not the only one. Feedback from a Lips user. Sex positive app Lips is a victim of tech prudes The pro-sex worker app has struggled to secure funding. How to block your ex on Tinder Now you can swipe without seeing your ex's face.

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