As the Trust and Safety Professional Association (TSPA) turns two years old, what has the experience been like for the people and organizations involved? 

Today we liveblogged a panel on the first two years of the Trust and Safety Professional Association at TrustCon 20220. Jeff Dunn is Google Trust & Safety Partnerships and Policy Communications Lead. Jan Eissfeldt is the Director and Global Head of Trust and Safety for the Wikimeia Foundation. Justin Paine @justinspaine  is Head of Trust and Safety at CloudFlare. Kaitlin Sullivan (​​@katersully) is a Director of Content Policy at Facebook. Moderating the panel is Adelin Cai (@adelin), a co-founder of the TSPA.

What motivated these founding members to join the TSPA? Multiple panelists agreed that they wanted to grow the community of Trust and Safety professionals. Other organizations focused on the security or public policy elements of the work, but no one who was focusing on the whole scope of the work. Kaitlin remarked that peer support is one of the most important forms of support that people need when doing this work. She recounted an event at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard when she was able to spend an hour with other people who do this work. The chance to discuss the nature of the work with other people who understood was one of the most valuable hours in her career at that point. Jan observed that the TSPA is strongly aligned with the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission to create knowledge. Jan also noted that as the tech industry faces a potential recession, platforms have greater incentives to share and pool knowledge to do good work in ways that manage costs.

Adelin asks panelists how they have been involved in the TSPA and what the experience was like.

Jeff says that the TSPA is helping people understand what Trust and Safety work is like. He’s also excited about the curricula and materials that the TSPA is creating for those who work in the industry. Kaitlin talks about the Trust and Safety happy hours, which brought together people across companies and even within the same company who may not know each other.  Justin has found it helpful to point people to the TSPA when they have questions about careers— and he’s appreciated the generosity and kindness that professionals are offering each other. Jan reports especially enjoying the working groups, which provide opportunities for people from companies of all shapes and sizes to share ideas with each other.

Adeline asks the panelists if they can identify practical changes in what their teams do based on their membership in TSPA. Kaitlin says that the TSPA has helped the Facebook team see the range of roles involved in Trust and Safety including, legal, engineering, product design, and research. Jan observes that the TSPA is making it possible for teams to share ideas and best practices with other platforms without lawyers in the room. For example, when a platform wants to set up an advisory group of outside organizations, says Jan, other TSPA members can share their experiences and offer suggestions on how to manage those issues. Kaitlin notes that the TSPA has leveled the playing field by giving everyone in the industry access to that kind of information early in their careers. Jeff talks about the Child Safety Toolkit at Google, which has been a collaboration with many of the TSPA sponsor organizations. He’s hoping that platforms can collaborate on other initiatives—trust and safety shouldn’t be a competition.

Adelin asks the panelists: why is it important to professionalize trust and safety work? Justin argues that team members shouldn’t have to learn hard-won lessons from scratch, like smaller companies needed to do in the past. By professionalizing the field, companies can also start outlining the kinds of education and preparation that people need if they want to do this kind of work. Jeff notes that people in Trust and Safety needs people with different perspectives—people come from many career paths and languages, and he hopes that the TSPA can help foster more of that kind of diversity. Kaitlin hopes that professionalization will help build the reputation of people who do this work. She hopes that this will help overcome media narratives of inept companies who need the “adults” of regulators and academics to solve problems—and start to acknowledge the expertise of the professionals who do this work. Jan observes that when professionals in the tech industry form a field, they also develop the ability to explain the work to managers, board members, the public, and regulators. He says that the TSPA in part is a reaction to outside pressure companies face from regulators.

What long-term challenges should the TSPA be focusing on? In response to Adelin’s question, Jeff responds that the TSPA needs to focus on a broader range of geographies, cultures, and languages. Jan notes that industry conversations tend to focus on Western services and platforms; he suggests engaging with smaller organizations in regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa. Kaitlin think the TSPA might need to get an individual seat at key tables in order to speak on behalf of the industry on issues where individual companies might not be able to speak. Justin thinks it would be helpful for the TSPA to include more conversations about infrastructure and how Trust and Safety play out a deeper levers of the technology stack.

Adelin asks panelists what advice they would give to organizations that are thinking about getting more involved. Jeff suggests that organizations appoint a dedicated point of contact. “You owe it to your Trust and Safety Team,” says Justin to any company that’s considering it.

Audience Questions

Are advertisers involved in the TSPA, and should brands be part of the association? Jeff tells stories about ways that advertisers engage with Google’s Trust and Safety teams. Kaitlin notes that advertisers are increasingly worried about brand safety issues. She notes that the Digital Trust and Safety Partnership has been doing work to engage with advertisers.

As a cost center, what measures are the panelist’s companies taking while trying to still protect communities, and what suggestions do they have? Kaitlin encourages people to push back on the idea that Trust and Safety is only a cost center. Reminding people that Facebook has faced advertiser boycotts, she notes that companies face significant costs for not taking this work seriously. Justin agrees that Trust and Safety teams should identify and quantify the costs of cuts on trust and safety. Jan suggests that people should summarize the value provided by trust and safety to the whole ecosystem. He observes that the Wikimedia Foundation has moved away from counting individual actions to measuring and evaluate outcomes. This has shifted the conversation about value provided by trust and safety teams.

An audience member asked about the TSPA’s potential role to support education and certification — especially given the urgency and sensitivity of the field’s work during moments like the invasion of Ukraine. Adelin responds that the TSPA is focusing for now on bringing people together so they can have these larger conversations about curriculum, learning, and the trade-offs of certification.