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Posted under: Technology News

How These Three Stanford Grads Plan To Bring Civility Back To Online Discourse

Elizabeth Davis, Tre Kirkman and Brandon Hill have created an app, Greo, to put an end to online "shouting matches."

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Remember Obama? That farewell speech seems like so long ago — so much has happened since then: the Muslim ban, the death of COP, Infrastructure Week, Comey, Russia, Russia and Russia …

Think back though, through all the haze of our current political climate.

What did he say?

“If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life.”

Elizabeth Davis, Tre Kirkman and Brandon Hill were tired of arguing with strangers on the internet. They wanted to discuss things they felt were of import — they wanted to talk about police brutality and Black Lives Matter and sports and Game of Thrones

Photo: Musila Munuve
Photo: Musila Munuve

Like you or I, they took to social media to have these discussions. 

And yet, they grew frustrated. No matter how universal or unpolitical the topic, in the end, they found their discussions devolving into cruel, troll-filled “shouting matches.”

So what did they do?

Well, as the trio themselves told us here at Blavity, they decided to take matters into their own hands, to recreate “the vibe of the kind of conversations you have in a dorm room, around a dinner table or at a coffee shop” through an app called Greo.

Wait, wait, wait, we can hear you saying — An app? How is that different than Snapchat or Whisper or Twitter or anything else?

Well, Greo hopes to make conversing more civil by forcing users to show their faces.

And not in the real-name-because-privacy-is-an-unimportant-false-construct Facebook way, but in a Facetime way.

That’s right — Greo users don’t communicate via text, but through video.

A Greo user can jump into a conversation via a video of no more than 60 seconds. Although the system is a somewhat Platonic version of Obama's in-real-life ideal, it's not a bad approximation.

The founders say that this video system will allow for “safer, more human conversations about the most important issues of the day,” and that because “it’s much harder to troll when your face and voice is tied to your opinion,” that “folk of color, and more broadly, those communities who are under-protected on other platforms” will find in Greo a safe space.

Part of the problem with other apps according to Greo CEO Brandon Hill is that “all of the social apps we use every day are built by cis straight white guys, and that is reflected in how everyone else gets treated on them.”

Recent revelations about Facebook’s secret censorship documents certainly seem to support this claim.

If you’d like to try the app out for yourself and see if the three co-founders have succeeded in creating a social media utopia, you’re in luck — the app is available now. Visit Greo’s website to find out more.

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