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Indian social platform pitches solution for ‘online toxicity’ at Arsenal game

Appu Esthose Suresh, the founder of Pixstory, made a pitch at Emirates Stadium in London for his social media platform, which he says rewards positive content

January 23, 2023 02:04 am | Updated January 26, 2023 10:06 am IST

The founder of social media website Pixstory, Appu Esthose Suresh, presented his pitch for a network driven by ‘positivity’ at the Emirates Stadium in London on Sunday evening, before the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United. Mr. Suresh’s firm clinched a deal with Arsenal as the football team’s “Official Social Media Partner”, and distributed folding paper clappers to the game’s audience, preparing them for a pitch requesting their applause.

“Imagine the toxicity, harassment and hate speech our children are at risk of enduring on a daily basis” on social media, Mr. Suresh said at the stadium, in remarks that were not carried on Disney+ Hotstar, the streaming platform broadcasting the League in India.

Pixstory is backed, among others, by Dwight Howard, the NBA champion who now plays for the T1 League’s Taoyuan Leopards. The firm’s board includes former Union Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, co-chair of the Australia India Institute Amitabh Mattoo, and former Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University Dinesh Singh. 

“Everyone who joins the platforms gets a base integrity score,” Mr. Suresh said in a telephonic interview on Thursday before departing for London. This score increases as users contribute content and add information about themselves, he added. The site says on its website that it promotes “transparency, integrity, and decency in which users are held accountable to the truth”. 

In the interview, Mr. Suresh touted his platform — still fledgling in terms of its user base — as a response to “online toxicity” on other social media sites, comparing his effort to clean energy as a counterweight to climate change. 

Mr. Suresh said his platform was working to promote positivity in discussions by rewarding contributors with visibility and virtual points. Moderators look at reports by users on unhelpful content. Drawing a parallel to systems to check money laundering, he said that like large transactions in the banking system, “stories which are going viral get checked.” Users can post audio and text stories on the platform.

The platform focuses heavily on sports content, with sports stories making up eight of the 14 posts on the platform’s home page at the time of this article being written. 

The difference in tone from other platforms is already emerging. When Arsenal’s official Twitter handle tweeted an announcement of its deal with Pixstory, most replies visible switched track, demanding that the team “announce Trossard,” a reference to the Belgian player currently playing for Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.

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