AI / Entertainment / Startups

A Maryland technologist is launching a new open-source social media tool

On Arkavo, content creators will own their data, the platform will be community-funded and AI bots will be treated as first-class citizens. Founder Paul Flynn tells us more.

Arkavo founder Paul Flynn. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of Entertainment Tech Month of’s editorial calendar.

As sites like Twitter and Reddit continue to change, one local developer wants to create the next wave of social media.

Paul Flynn, a senior software engineer at DC’s Virtru who helped build the Obamacare website, is developing an open-source social media tool known as Arkavo. Leveraging Virtru’s OpenTDF project, Arkavo is a donation-based web API for developers to build social media sites similar to Reddit that will let content creators own their own data.

Flynn, who is based in Columbia, Maryland, launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project in late June and hopes to have the API ready in about six months.

“I want to give people hope and I want to deliver it, and I want to give them that platform,” Flynn told

Flynn said Arkavo will use a model similar to Wikipedia, funded by the community with open-source code that lets developers write the features they’re looking for. Removing the monetization aspects that commercial platforms have, he said,  enables the privacy component of users owning their own data.

This aspect is similar to another project from Virtru: its SecureCycle period tracking app that employees created at a company hackathon. With the OpenTDF backend, users would own their own data that they can share, but they can also revoke it at a later time if they chose.

“You’re creating content and you’re sharing it and you’re controlling that share,” Flynn said, adding: “You can still share it with everyone but maybe you want not to share it later, you have that control.”

Flynn is currently raising $576,000 for the initial development costs to get Arkavo up and running (though users won’t be charged if the goal isn’t met). Arkavo is sponsored by Virtru, Senior Technical Product Manager Cassandra Zimmerman said, but is a separate entity; while it plans to work with Akavo in the future, Virtru does not have a traditional parent company relationship with Flynn’s project.

There is one significant difference between any Arkavo-built social media platforms and other more prominent ones, however: AI bots will be treated as first-class citizens and embraced on the platform. With machine-learning algorithms, AI bots will help community moderators with auto-moderation to prevent inappropriate content and learn from the interactions to improve over time.

Consumers will be able to use AI bots for tasks like content summarization, advanced filtering and tailored offerings. Flynn also said all bots will be classified for risk, and Arkavo is pursuing certifications for government agencies to lower risks.

With this custom AI bot feature, Flynn said that users can have a better and more personalized online experience.

“The AI mods are the way to go,” Flynn said. “AI is a better way to train so you can really create a safe community.”

Series: Entertainment Tech Month 2023

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