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Trust and Safety: a Key Investment

Trust and Safety: a Key Investment

As digitalisation continues to transform our lives, investing in a robust trust and safety function is critical for various organisations. Trust and safety refers to the regulation of technology platforms, the protection of users, and the establishment and enforcement of community guidelines.

In managing digital threats, together with the rapid pace of change — trust and safety departments may take considerable time and effort to identify and understand behaviours that need to be addressed. According to a recent report by Global Market Research Company, IPSOS these considerations affect several industries and sectors including retail, gaming, social media, entertainment, and the public sector.

Ensuring ethical social behaviour is sustained online is a major task for digital businesses, especially those who plan to grow their online communities. Social media platforms, gaming platforms, dating apps, online forums and review sites are universal spaces where users connect and engage.

Due to the rapid development of new apps and platforms, trust and safety teams face a growing number of challenges when it comes to upholding safe online spaces for users and consumers to interact. Notably, people are more likely to spend time on platforms and return to those platforms if they continue to have a positive experience.

A survey by market and consumer data company Statista on global internet and social media use shows that in 2023 there were 5.18 billion internet users worldwide, 64.6 percent of the global population. 4.8 billion, or 59.9 percent were social media users.

Today, business leaders are becoming more aware of the connection between brand and emotion. People choose to engage with organisations who reflect their values, for example, through diversity and inclusion, sustainability, ethical production, and manufacturing.

Furthermore, achieving safe online experiences supports business operations through enabling a better understanding of user needs and aligning corporate ethical guidelines, while strengthening compliance.

Ultimately, online experiences affect how users feel about a brand, platform, or service. As companies grow and develop, they want to increase brand trust, cultivate more engaged users, retain employees and customers, and anticipate regulatory changes.

The role of Trust & Safety

Trust and safety relates to the set of business practices online platforms implement in reducing user exposure to risk. They protect users and customers against non-consensual content and images, misinformation and disinformation, spam, fraud, and data breaches.

To ensure the integrity of your platform and the safety of its users from online harms, trust and safety teams can quickly strengthen policies, scale operations, and train its artificial intelligence (AI).

By and large, trust and safety teams protect users from cybercrime and harmful user-generated content (UCG), while offering advice on trust and safety issues. Trust and safety is becoming a key function for online platforms and brands to attract, protect, engage, and retain users and customers.

How Content Moderation links to Trust & Safety

Content moderation services play a crucial role in maintaining online trust and safety. Today, the volume of user generated content (UGC) is tremendous with content that stays online indefinitely, and content that disappears within a short timeframe. This includes public content, private groups content, and content shared between platforms.

Content Moderation is the practice of reviewing content, and deciding whether to leave it on the platform, or remove it. It helps to protect users, build trust, enforce policies, reduce risk, and promote positive online interactions.

Content moderation takes a proactive approach to risk identification and safety—flagging violations and enabling fast and effective policy responses when required.

Accordingly, trust and safety teams monitor and assess content that could be deemed highly sensitive, and they implement precautionary measures in line with safety policies.

In enforcing platform community guidelines, operational first line support teams promote adherence and educate users on how to report content that violates community standards.

Community guidelines describe the types of behaviours that will not be tolerated which is made available to the public. These community support teams drive awareness of the mechanisms to report abuse of standards.

Content moderation services maintain a safe and reliable environment for digital platform users, thereby enabling a quality customer experience.

Demand for Safe Technology

As technology continues to develop, trust & safety departments, professionals, and policy makers must keep up with changes in malware, phishing, cybercrime, and how users interact—to protect their digital platforms.

A safety by design approach is being embraced from Europe to the United States with the goal of placing user empowerment, accountability, and transparency at the core of technical systems—by using preventative design to reduce risks.

This is becoming an increasingly desired approach for online platforms as they look to protect their users while improving customer acquisition, engagement, and retention.

Online Safety Challenges

Scams, Fraud & Cybersecurity: Exploitation of online systems and users through malware attacks, phishing scams, and other cyber-attacks.

Privacy: Personal data and privacy is an ongoing concern with so much information being shared online. This extends to user data collection, data sharing, and data-driven profiling.

Harassment & abuse: Social media platforms and other online forums can be used as a channel for hate speech, bullying and other forms of harmful behaviour.

Child Safety: There are many risks associated with children spending time online due to exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and predators.

False information: Fake news has become a major concern due to the spread of misinformation about public health, politics, and other important issues.

Challenges in Designing Effective Trust & Safety Solutions

Achieving balance: Moderating social media content and online communities brings up the matter of ‘free speech’ around what content should be allowed and what should be removed. Achieving the right balance relating to free speech while protecting users from harmful content can be challenging. For example, the concept of authentic identity respects the various ways through which user identity is expressed, also seeking to prevent impersonation and misrepresentation.

AI/ Automation: The use of language models in AI can magnify biases by associating words with positive or negative sentiments, therefore, automated moderation tools may misinterpret terms that are flagged as non-threatening, without context. When Trust and safety functions are heavily dependent on AI moderation, false-positive data can appear. Consequently, banning or blocking non-offenders can diminish user trust.

AI using machine learning can proactively remove content without the need for human intervention.  Machine learning (ML) enables systems to learn and improve through experience however, machine learning models only work as well as the input they receive. If AI has full control, incorrect predictions can occur.

Escalating Volumes: With the growth of social media and other digital platforms, the volume of user-generated content (UCG) has increased significantly. Organisations may have limited resources which can create a bottleneck in the review process. Similarly, policy or regulatory changes can result in a backlog of content for review that needs to meet compliance. To manage high volumes, trust and safety teams need a flexible, yet accurate solution aimed at improving efficiency, reducing handling times, and preventing backlogs.

Bespoke Solutions: There is no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every type of platform. Effective Trust and safety solutions allow flexibility to meet the specific needs of the business depending on user demographics, available resources, regulations, and technology.

Product Development: To adopt a ‘Safety by Design’ approach it could mean relaunching products with safety built into the design, which can disrupt user experience. This can be tricky for more established platforms who may need to add-on safety features via upgrades and updates.

Trust and Safety Function - gearing up for success

Building employee skills and capabilities, encouraging the right behaviours, and driving continuous improvement within the Trust and Safety function — requires significant time and investment. Expert Trust & Safety teams understand the nuances in supporting communities. They conduct detailed investigations, identify specific and emerging types of fraud — and they implement effective policy, training, and quality standards.

Due to the ‘global’ reach of online communities, platform owners may experience challenges hiring for language capability and cultural awareness. Add to this, finding the right talent in terms of mindset and resilience.  

Trust and Safety team training

Comprehensive onboarding, training and development programmes are essential to upskill trust and safety employees with the tools and resources to succeed — while fostering better employee engagement and retention. Preferably, onboarding begins as soon as an employee accepts the offer, with ongoing training and development throughout the employee lifecycle.

The goal is to develop a process that makes Trust and Safety employees feel welcomed, valued, safe, and ultimately — be successful.

Trust and Safety Team Wellbeing

Working in Trust and Safety involves dealing with escalating types of platform abuse, so empathetic care is vital. In nurturing a supportive team environment, organisational health and wellbeing requires interventions to reduce exposure and manage risk.  An all-inclusive employee assistance programme, counseling and occupational health services can offer the means to address and resolve difficulties. A holistic approach to promote physical wellbeing, mental health and resilience is needed to drive increased engagement, performance, and vitality.

The Value of a Trust & Safety Ecosystem

A trust and safety ecosystem enables an organisation to conduct online business with less concern about fraud, financial crime, revenue loss and reputational damage. Strengthening security and preventing cyber threats extends beyond the function itself — to the entire organisation — in building and sustaining a safety culture.           

When customers feel that their safety and security is taken seriously, they are more likely to trust the brand and engage in positive interactions. Transparency relating to data privacy is critical, as is achieving regulatory compliance.

To deliver better insights, and effectively navigate cases that require further investigation, AI and human moderation need to work in harmony. By focusing on training, policy, quality, and insights — trust and safety functions can ensure safer, more resilient platforms.

AI can learn from human moderators and vice versa, allowing for continuous improvement in content moderation processes and tools. Whilst platforms urge users to report abuse of their community standards and policies, AI can automatically direct potential content abuse to the relevant content analysts. In turn, content analysts can give feedback directly to the machine learning model to improve its predictions. As ML can be set to a confidence threshold, this creates less room for error because humans and machines work in unison.

Overall, the combination of AI and human content reviewers can provide a more effective, efficient, and accurate approach to maintaining trust and safety online. However, it’s important to note that AI should not be a substitute for human moderation, as human judgement and decision-making are necessary for certain types of content moderation.

Trust and safety must ensure clarity in processes, policies, and insights for successful outcomes. Furthermore, each business model and platform are unique, so customised solutions are essential. Trust and safety policies need to be tailored to the specific needs of the business to provide accurate and effective results.

In terms of business growth, a robust trust and safety approach helps to attract new users and customers as well as leverage a competitive advantage. It supports an organisation to better understand its customers, strengthen its products and innovations, and refine its strategy.

Prioritising trust and safety as a key investment offers regulatory, process and cost efficiencies to organisations. Furthermore, when companies know that they have implemented effective processes and policies to protect their users and customers, they can focus on developing new, innovative products and services using insights gained.

Rather than building an in-house trust & safety team or function, it can be easier and more efficient to partner with an established outsourcing provider with specific expertise in this area. As digitalisation expands, outsourcing trust and safety processes can add countless value in protecting users, customers, and communities, as well as brand reputation.

Trust and Safety: a Key Investment
Trust and Safety: a Key Investment

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Trust and Safety: a Key Investment



28th March 2024