Coto: A safe space for women

This Independence Day, the co-founder of a women-only social media app, speaks about preserving freedom of expression for women, preventing online hate and maintaining the app’s identity.

Published: 15th August 2023 08:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th August 2023 08:18 AM   |  A+A-

Aparna Acharekar

Aparna Acharekar co-founded the women-only social app Coto

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Scrolling through social media these days, one cannot miss instances of hate – from homophobia to casteism, threats to slander, it comes in all forms. But women face an overwhelming share of that hate.

This Independence Day, the co-founder of a women-only social media app, speaks about preserving freedom of expression for women, preventing online hate and maintaining the app’s identity to ensure it doesn’t share the fate that befell Twitter.

In an attempt to curb this problem and to provide a safe space for women on the internet, Aparna Acharekar co-founded the women-only social app Coto (short for come together).

“The idea came from women facing harassment. We noticed that the more a woman expressed her thoughts online, the more hate she got. This was especially true for women influencers and celebrities. Not just here in India. We have data that shows this pattern across the world. We wanted to create a space where women would be able to ask questions and express themselves without inhibitions,” shares Acharekar, who has over two decades of experience in content creation. 

The internet provides people with the luxury of anonymity. But some take advantage of this luxury to masquerade themselves in many ways. So, how does Coto ensure no one abuses the app? “We have various ways of verifying users. We use reliable and effective social recognition systems to ensure someone isn’t falsifying their identity. We also used two-factor authentication and if someone wishes to, they can opt to enter their Aadhaar details (other government ID data for people in other countries). We have taken ample steps to ensure that only women and transwomen get access to our app,” she explains. 

coto has been live since January 2023 and surprisingly the app hasn’t recorded any instance of hate or abuse, largely due to its content moderation practices.

“First, there is an AI-level moderation, which picks derogatory works or inappropriate words. Inappropriate words or context, in our case, are very different from what you find on other social media. On a women-only app, when somebody uses the word breast or vagina, those words are not flagged off as inappropriate. Secondly, communities moderate their content and their members. So community members can report to, and escalate to admins of every community, pretty much like on a WhatsApp group. So if there is anything that is not contextual to the community or may be harmful to the community, the creators themselves moderate it. The platform does not unless their complaint has escalated,” she says. 

coto comes with an identity – to create a space for women online. So, what are their plans to ensure the identity remains intact and doesn’t eventually lose itself, something that has plagued other social media apps over the years? “We believe social media should be decentralised. Women who come to coto and set up their communities are given coto tokens/gains. It essentially means that a large part of the platform will be owned by the community creators and members.” Regarding plans of expanding, Acharekar elaborates, “Presently our largest user base is in India and Egypt. But the application is available globally. We are soon planning on launching in Indonesia.”


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