Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Lana Cuthbertson, the CEO of Areto Labs. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Lana! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Lana: Glad to be with you, Spiffy! Toxicity on social media permits some of us to let loose our worst instincts. This negatively impacts the well-being of the people we rely on to lead and progress our communities. This results in “digital repression,” which challenges our democracy and society by silencing marginalized voices online. Areto Labs was created to fix this problem. Our technology creates safe and welcoming online communities using machine learning to track, moderate, and counteract social media abuse.
Spiffy: Wow, that is really cool! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?
Lana: My biggest motivation is using technology to eliminate hate speech online. The issue of online abuse is constantly evolving, and creative solutions are needed to proactively counteract the problem. I am also inspired by the Areto team who work tirelessly to bring awareness to the real impact online toxicity can have on individuals’ mental health, businesses’ bottom line, and community engagement. We like to think of ourselves as pioneers for human-focused cybersecurity.
Spiffy: How would you say your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Lana: Social media is not one big monolithic place. It’s millions of micro communities, full of people trying to connect, share, and belong. Areto Labs technology helps make the world more equitable by its industry-leading ability to detect online toxicity that falls through the cracks. This includes high sensitivity towards racist, ableist, sexist, and anti-2SLGBTQ+ sentiment. Our people-first approach also provides digital wellness checks on the mental health of the real people behind accounts.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your audience?
Lana: More people are watching women's sports than ever before, and online abuse impacts athletes and fans on and off the field. In 2022, Areto Labs tracked online abuse for the Wimbledon Championships and the UEFA Women’s Euro, and the findings show that women athletes face more abuse than their male counterparts. This report reflects our effort to provide solutions and bring awareness to the impact online abuse has on professional sports.
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Lana: It can be discouraging to constantly read articles about how people are impacted by social media toxicity, or when online abuse jumps off screen and becomes in-person violence. Sometimes it feels like our efforts are a drop in the bucket. However, we know that our solution is effective and can be scaled to have a massive culture-shifting impact. As such, we take the negativity that we see and turn it into motivation to always improve our technology. In other words, we turn lemons into lemonade.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Lana: People need to be more aware of the impact their words can have, both positive and negative. If we can create digital communities that feel safe enough, then engaged citizens will feel more confident and able to stand up for their fellow citizens. This could be a powerful tool for countering online abuse and harms. Law enforcement, employers, social media companies, and tech providers each have a role to play, and we must work together to protect people online.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Lana—it’s been an honor!
Lana Cuthbertson is the CEO of Areto Labs, a Canadian tech company. She is an expert in technology, digital communications, and innovation. She’s passionate about achieving gender equality. (First published on the Ladderworks website on February 23, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.