Recent trust and safety scandals have exposed the fragility between users and tech platforms. This underscores the need for proactive frameworks that protect users – gaining reserves of goodwill for inevitable challenges ahead.
In this guide, we’ll provide actionable best practices across four key pillars for developing core trust and safety:
- Ethical Design of Interfaces and Features
- Content Policies that Balance Free Expression and Safety
- Inclusion and Accountability Structures
- Transparent Processes and Communication
Getting ahead of issues shows a commitment to users over profits or growth. While imperfect, these strategies allow teams to uphold safety as an ongoing process.
Section 1: Ethical Interface and Experience Design
- Build safety into core flows through risk analysis in design sprints. Don’t tack it on later.
- Enable granular controls and explicit consent around data privacy—no tracking, profiling, or sharing without opt-in.
- Follow stringent privacy and security by design principles. Encrypt data, minimize collection, and monitor access.
- Allow pseudonymous profiles where possible to protect vulnerable users. Don’t force real names.
- Scrutinize gamification elements that may enable addictive behaviors. Use motivating design ethically.
- Adopt safety-oriented defaults like minimum ages, strong passwords, and data deletion tools. Users should opt-in to risks.
- Analyze accessibility needs for disabled users. Build interfaces for universal access.
- Conduct ethical reviews on features and changes, considering implications for at-risk groups.
Section 2: Content Policies that Balance Free Expression and Safety
- Develop clear content rules grounded in ethical principles like justice, autonomy, and beneficence. Explain rationale.
- Implement both proactive abuse detection and reactive reporting. Automation and human review should work together.
- Apply policies consistently across user groups—more scrutiny on the powerful and those targeting the vulnerable.
- Have a low tolerance for clear harms like hate speech, stalking, and threats. Weigh community impact heavily.
- Allow appeals for takedowns and bans. Provide a path to reinstatement contingent on understanding the implications.
- Regularly update policies based on new challenges observed in data and user feedback. Keep pace with changing tactics.
- Look for exploitation of loopholes and coordinated harmful campaigns, not just individual incidents.
- Analyze usage data responsibly to guide interventions around risks like self-harm and eating disorders.
- For complex issues, convene an advisory ethics board with diverse representation to develop balanced policies.
Section 3: Inclusion and Accountability Structures
- Establish inclusive processes for regular input from diverse users when shaping policies. Don’t make decisions in a black box.
- Conduct rigorous third-party algorithm audits focused on uncovering biases and optimizing recommendations for good.
- Implement vital whistleblower programs to surface issues without retaliation. Take staff concerns seriously.
- Leadership must exemplify ethical practices in their behavior and decisions. Set the tone from the top.
- Train all employees, not just T&S teams, on applying ethical thinking to product design, engineering, and marketing.
- Fairly compensate T&S reps for the emotional toll of their work. Provide mental health support. Don’t take them for granted.
- Create feedback channels for users to report feeling harmed by platform issues like bans. Be accountable.
- Form an external advisory council of civil rights experts to assess where trust & safety policies can improve.
Section 4: Transparent Processes and Communication
- Communicate openly with users on challenges and measures being taken to address them. Don’t appear indifferent.
- Simplify how rules are described to users in plain language while providing rationale behind policies.
- Adopt radical transparency around data practices, algorithm functioning, and how content decisions are made. Users deserve explanations.
- Make it easy to access knowledgeable human support for account issues and disputes. Automation should assist users.
- Share lessons learned from problems to reassure users that progress is being made. Don’t appear defensive.
- Publish regular transparency reports on policies’ applications, including aggregate data on takedowns, bans, and appeals.
- Open channels for users to give input on algorithms, new features, and community guidelines. And incorporate feedback.
- Appoint an ombudsperson focused solely on representing excluded user perspectives and upholding their rights.
While perfect trust and safety are impossible, proactive and human-centric approaches can foster welcoming, ethical communities. This guide outlined achievable best practices across four key pillars.
Starting with small steps demonstrates prioritizing user welfare – building reserves of trust for when challenges emerge. At its core, trust and safety requires a mindset shift as much as any single tool or process.
If you lead a digital community and seek guidance on this journey, contact our team. Let’s have an open conversation on how to start.