The Trust & Safety Professional Association: Advancing The Trust And Safety Profession Through A Shared Community Of Practice
from the strength-through-collaboration dept
For decades, trust and safety professionals in content moderation, fraud and risk, and safety — have faced enormous challenges, often under intense scrutiny. In recent years, it’s become even more clear that the role of trust and safety professionals are both critically important and difficult. In 2020 alone, we’ve seen an increasing need for this growing class of professionals to combat a myriad of online abuse related to systemic racism, police violence, and COVID-19 — such as hate speech, misinformation, price gouging, and phishing — while keeping a safe space for connecting people with vital, authoritative information, and with each other.
Despite the enormous impact trust and safety individuals have towards protecting the online and offline safety of people, the professional community has historically been dispersed, siloed, and informally organized. To date — unlike, say, in privacy — no organization has focused on the needs of trust and safety professionals in a way that builds a shared community of practice.
This is why we founded the Trust & Safety Professional Association (TSPA) and the Trust & Safety Foundation Project (TSF) — something we think is long overdue. TSPA is a new, nonprofit, membership-based organization that will support the global community of professionals who develop and enforce principles and policies that define acceptable behavior online. TSF will focus on improving society’s understanding of trust and safety, including the operational practices used in content moderation, through educational programs and multidisciplinary research.
Since we launched in June, we’ve gotten a number of questions about what TSPA and TSF will (and won’t) do. So we thought we’d tackle them right here, and share more with you about who’s included, why we launched now, and what our vision is for the future. You can also hear us talk more about both organizations on episode 247 of the Techdirt podcast. And if you want to know even more, we’re all ears!
Q. How do you define trust and safety? Don’t you mean content moderation?
We define trust and safety professionals as the global community of people who develop and enforce policies that define acceptable behavior online.
Content moderation is a big part of trust and safety, and the area that gets the most public attention these days. But trust and safety also includes the people who tackle financial risk and fraud, those who process law enforcement requests, engineers who work on automating these policies, and more. TSPA is for the professionals who work in all of those areas.
Q. What’s the difference between TSPA and TSF?
TSPA is a 501(c)(6) membership-based organization for professionals who develop and enforce principles and policies that define acceptable behavior and content online. Think ABA for lawyers, or IAPP for privacy people, but for those working in trust and safety, who can use TSPA to connect with a network of peers, find resources for career development, and exchange best practices.
TSF is a fiscally sponsored project of the Internet Education Foundation and focuses on research.
The two organizations are complementary, but have distinct missions and serve different communities. TSPA is a membership organization, while TSF has a charitable purpose.
Q. Why are you doing this now?
We first started discussing the need for something like this more than two years ago, in the wake of the first Content Moderation at Scale (COMO) conference in Santa Clara. The conference was convened by one of TSPA’s founders and board members, Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman, which you can read about right here. After the first COMO get-together It was clear that there was a need for more community amongst people who do trust and safety work.
Q. Are you taking positions on policy issues or lobbying?
Nope. We’re not advocating for public policy positions on behalf of corporate supporters or anyone else. We do want to help people better understand trust and safety as a field, as well as shed light on the challenges that trust and safety professionals face.
Q. Ok, so you launched. Now what?
For TSPA, we’re in the process of planning some virtual panel discussions that will happen before the end of the year on various topics related to trust and safety. Topics will range from developing wellness and resilience best practices, to operational challenges in the face of current events like the US presidential election and COVID-19. Longer term, we’re working on professional development offerings, like career advancement bootcamps and a job board.
Over at TSF, we partnered with the folks right here from Techdirt to launch with a series of case studies from the Copia Institute that illustrate challenging choices that trust and safety professionals face. We are also hosting an ongoing podcast series called Flagged for Review, with interviews from people with expertise in trust and safety.
We’re also looking for founding Executive Director, who can get TSPA and TSF off the ground. Send good candidates our way.
Q. Sounds pretty good. How do I get involved?
Sign up here so we can share more with you about TSPA and TSF in the coming months as we open our membership and develop our offerings. Follow us on Twitter, too. If you work for one of our corporate supporters, you can reach out to your trust and safety leadership as well to find out more. We’d also love to hear from organizations and people who want to help out, or whose work is complementary to our own. We’re excited to further develop and support the community of online trust and safety professionals.