Happy Pride 🏳️🌈, TechAways readers!
While Pride is celebrated in May in Belgium, internationally it is often celebrated in June, paying tribute to the Stonewall riots in 1969 which are credited as an integral moment in the gay liberation movement. Pride will probably continue to be different this year, as many celebrations were cancelled or moved online last year. And as we know, the relationship between tech and marginalised groups is often strained. The LGBTQ+ community has often felt the brunt of tech gone awry. Dating apps are a good example of how tech can both help and hurt.
Tinder conducted a survey of LGBTQ+ users in the UK in 2019 and found that 80% believe that dating apps have had a positive impact on their community. Even better, 82% of respondents said that they believe there is less stigma attached to their identity than there was five years ago. Tinder also took steps in 2019 to protect its LGBTQ+ users by introducing a safety update that warned users who identified themselves in the app as being LGBTQ+ when they entered a country that could criminalise them for being out. It also allowed users to make their profile hidden during their stay in countries deemed less safe for queer people. It was hailed as an important step in protecting LGBTQ+ dating app users.
However, privacy is paramount for anyone using a dating app – especially for those in the LGBTQ+ community. There have been numerous instances of governments that forbid homosexuality monitoring apps like Grindr to prosecute people. There have even been cases of police posing as potential dates and baiting app users into dangerous scenarios where they can be arrested. Grindr, an app specifically used by gay men, was exposed as sharing the HIV status of its users with third parties in 2018. A huge breach of trust that raised serious concerns about how to protect the extremely private and often sensitive personal information of queer people on dating apps.
As always, tech has positive and negatives, no matter the application. But we are hopeful that the tech industry can continue to help the LGBTQ+ community, while addressing and fixing previous wrongs. We wish you a happy Pride month, and encourage you to ensure that your communities are inclusive and accepting. To learn a little bit more about the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement we invite you to check out the short video our digital team put together on Twitter.
Cambre’s D&I Task Force
What’s sexuality got to do with it? [Attitude]
Can you be gay, a scientist, and a cyborg? Peter Scott-Morgan has an answer to that. The acclaimed first full cyborg in the world credits his sexuality helping him power through the biggest experiment of his life. After being diagnosed with motor neuron disease (MND), doctors predicted that Peter would be fully ‘locked in’ and have two years to live. Having experienced exclusion and bullying due to his sexuality, Peter developed an ability to counter the status quo. His rebellious nature, combined with his expertise in robotics and AI, is helping him fight MND, and if you want to learn more – you can check out his recently published book, Peter 2.0.
Algorithm-based moderation on social media isn’t LGBTQI+’s ally in the fight against disinformation. According to a Pew Research study, seven out of 10 gay, lesbian or bi persons have experienced harassment online. After analysing processes and reports of some of the biggest social media platforms, the organisation provided recommendations to help tech companies improve their services and support the LGBTQI+ community. In addition to fostering inclusion within the firms, one recommendation is to stop relying on algorithms and AI that often give too much importance to misinformation and abusive content just because one clicked by mistake on a misleading link. An important piece of advice we hope these platforms take to create a more inclusive online community.
Bias be gone [Technology Review]
In addition to the issues with algorithm-based moderation, AI itself is plagued with bias issue. The Trevor Project, an American LGBTQ+ teen hotline, has found a way to train its GTP-2 chat bots to eliminate the natural biases of volunteer hotline operators by using the chat bots to simulate talking to a teen in crisis. This allows operators to experience talking with “callers” with a wide variety of backgrounds. While therapy bots aren’t suited to replacing human help yet, the Trevor Project is also using an algorithm to help determine which callers are at the highest risk of danger, allowing them to get help as soon as possible. While there’s still a long way to go before AI can take over for human counsellors, these programmes currently in place are allowing as many people as possible get the help they need.
One positive thing that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic is the proliferation of mutual aid programmes within the queer community! It is heart-warming to read how tech has contributed to empowering LGBTQ+ networks to not only provide support and information but also severely needed assistance, care and financial aid. From small Paypal transfers to help pay for rent, medication or education right through to a year’s worth of gender-affirming hormone therapy. All this stemming from generations of grassroots activism now turning digital to even better support and contribute to the (mental) health and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community.
About this week’s editor, Cambre D&I’s Task Force:
Within the Happiness Practice, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was created to ensure that Cambre’s work environment is as inclusive and equitable as possible. Since most of our work is focused internally you probably won’t be hearing from us too much – but if you have any good examples or best practices for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace we would love to hear them!
In case you haven’t had enough:
Meet Euphoria, a New Trans-Focused App Backed by Chelsea Clinton, Others [Built in Austin]
Pride Month: Recognizing LGBTQ Pioneers in Tech [Channel Futures]