December 21, 2022

Meet The Former Black Twitter Workers Behind New Social Platform Spill

Are we leaving Twitter or not? That’s the question many Black Twitter users have been asking themselves for months now. The only problem is, where exactly will we be leaving to go? 

What is Spill? 

Enter: Spill. The social media app, designed by former Twitter employees, Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell and DeVaris Brown, is slowly becoming the chosen alternative for many. 

The pair who met on their first day working at Twitter made friends after noticing they were the only Black guys. Their friendship has since blossomed into a partnership that led them to build a social media platform of their own.

Like the bird app, Spill will have a live news feed where people can stay up-to-date with current affairs and pop culture news. In an interview with TechCrunch, the founders explained that the platform’s name came from “spill the tea,” a commonly used phrase in the Black community. 

The platform – which refuses to call itself a Web3 company – will use blockchain technology to chart how many posts go viral. Users will also be compensated for any “spill” that goes viral, unlike other platforms where viral content tends to go unnoticed, let alone awarded. 

“Even before I left Twitter, over the last several months, I was talking to Black female creators, talking to Black queer creators, and I’m like, ‘How do you make your money? Is any platform supporting you? Does the idea of Spill interest you?” Terrell said. 

“The use of the blockchain is for both crediting creators and setting up a model for us to compensate them automatically. If they have a spill that goes viral and we monetize it, it’s really effective.” 

The platform will also encourage online and in-person events called “tea parties,” making it easier for users to meet and connect with their internet friends. 

Using AI to remove racial biases 

DeVaris Brown, the platform’s CTO, is focused on using an AI system that largely moderates language and content circulating the app. 

In the past, social media platforms have found it difficult to control the amount of hate speech or racist language on their app. Additionally, a recent study has shown that tweets by prominent Black users were more likely to be flagged by the algorithm. Tweets using AAVE (African American vernacular English) were twice as likely to be flagged due to the AI system not understanding the cultural language commonly used within the community. 

Read: The Black-Owned App Trying To Make Social Media More Human

Brown hopes he will be able to change this by creating an AI system that is a lot more intentional and accurate.

“This will probably be the first, from the ground up, large language content moderation model using AI that’s actually built by people from the culture,” Brown said. 

“We’re going to be more intentional and be more accurate around things that will be deemed offensive because, again, this is our lived experience. [So] it’ll be much more accurate to catch those kinds of things.” 

The platform, set to launch in late January 2023, is now live. Users can reserve their handle ahead of its launch. 

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Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.