Spill, which launched on Apple’s App Store in mid-June, is the latest platform some have said they are turning to following Elon Musk’s continued changes to Twitter.
By Uwa Ede-Osifo
Forget tweeting. For some Black social media users, it’s now all about spilling.
A newer app called Spill, which has two Black founders, has become the latest platform that some people of color have flocked to following Elon Musk’s continued changes to Twitter, which he bought last year.
The social platform, created by ex-Twitter employees Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell and DeVaris Brown, has garnered online buzz in the last week, with Black celebrities including musician Questlove and actor Keke Palmer counted among its recent members. By Monday, after Musk limited the number of tweets users can see, Spill began to climb the rankings of Apple’s App Store.
The recent boost in popularity comes amid constant discourse among Black Twitter, an informal digital enclave noted for its meme culture and political activism. Many within the community have voiced concerns about inadequate moderation of hate speech on Twitter, arguing that the app has become an increasingly “toxic” space under Musk’s leadership.
The Spill feed has a left tab, called “Fresh Tea,” where users can discover recommended or trending content, and a right tab, “My Brew,” where users see posts from people they are following. The tabs are similar to Twitter’s “For You” and “Following” feeds
When users post content, it is referred to as a “spill.” The lingo draws upon common phrases used in the Black LGBTQ+ community, Terrell said, such as “spilling the tea,” which refers to sharing gossip. But it’s also designed to be more of a safe space, according to Terrell.
“We are here to build a place that centers Black folks, queer folks and other marginalized groups,” Terrell said in a video interview. “We’re not tolerating any hate.”
The app’s early popularity comes as Twitter users, particularly marginalized communities, continue to look for alternative options. Black tech workers on Twitter were one of the first communities to migrate to Bluesky, which is seeing growing pains as it continues to remain in invite-only beta mode. On Wednesday, Instagram’s Threads app, a text-based social media platform poised to become Twitter’s latest competitor, “passed 2 million sign ups in the first two hours” after launch, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.
Terrell said his team is building a large language artificial intelligence model trained by Black LGBTQ+ people to identify discriminatory content in addition to using human moderators.
Since the app is in beta testing, users need an invite code to create an account. Over 100,000 users have signed up, Terrell said.
Early users have praised the app’s design and how it promotes visual storytelling.
“Supporting for sure. I like it,” one person tweeted. “Definitely got some kinks to work out. My first request is a longer character count lol I’m not FW this 90 character count but I love how it caters to my gif, meme and show clip obsession.”
Others appeared pleased to see how inclusive the app seems.
“Honestly the way racism and homophobia/transphobia and misogyny runs rampant on Twitter, makes Spill so much more of a breath of fresh air,” another user tweeted.
One challenge Spill and other similar alternatives may face is fatigue from consumers about the seemingly endless search for a new digital community following dissatisfaction with Twitter: “I joined spill cause that’s where folks are going but honestly? I dunno if I have it in me to learn another app,” one user tweeted.
Some online also expressed concern about the app being marketed for “everyone” and the potential commodification of Black culture.
Black people are “looking for an opportunity to have a safe space to share their thoughts and have open discussions amongst their community,” Rashad Alfred, a Twitter user, told NBC News in a direct message.
He said he initially thought Spill was only intended for the Black community because of its marketing. He is not currently a Spill user, but said he will join to see how Black people navigate the platform.
Terrell maintained there “was no strategic angle” or “marketing ploy” for Spill using familiar Black culture concepts in their branding.
“We are the communities that we are building for,” he said, adding that “this is how we naturally communicate on these formats.”