Trust Building As A Platform For Creative Businesses

from the trust-is-the-first-word-of-trust-and-safety dept

Last week, Santa Clara University hosted a gathering of tech platform companies to discuss how they actually handle content moderation questions. Many of the participants in the event have written essays about the questions that were discussed at the event. This is the last in the series for now. We hope you enjoyed them.

Patreon occupies a unique space among platforms with user generated content, which allows us to take a less automated approach to content moderation. As a membership platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid directly by their fans, we both host user generated content and act as a payment provider for creators. As a result, Patreon must have a higher bar for moderation and removal. It is not just individual content that is at risk, but potentially the creator's entire source of income.

Our goal is to have a moderation and removal process that feels like working with an enterprise SaaS provider that powers your business, instead of a distrustful content hosting platform. This is a challenge on a platform with no vetting before a creator is able to set up a page and with large number of active creators. To achieve this goal, we treat our creators like partners and work through a series of escalating steps as part of our moderation and removal process.

Patreon's Moderation and Removal Process

We want to give creators on Patreon a kinder moderation experience, so our first step is to send them a personalized email to let them know that their content has violated our guidelines. This initial contact is primarily to establish a line of communication, educate the creator on guidelines that they may not have known about, and give them a sense of agency in dealing with our guidelines. The vast majority of the time this process results in a mutually beneficial outcome, as the creator wants to continue receiving their funding and we want to continue working with them. We sometimes even use this approach before a creator has violated our guidelines if we see them posting content or exhibiting behaviors that is likely to result in a violation. This early outreach helps to educate creators before it becomes a problem.

When specific content poses an extreme risk, or when previous conversations fail to achieve the desired outcome, we then proceed to suspension. Our suspension state removes the page from public view and pauses all payment processing. It still allows the creator to log in to their page to make changes. The purpose of this feature is to give creators agency, because they can choose how to edit their pages to become compliant. We've heard from creators about how other moderation and removal processes are impersonal and inflexible. We want them to have the opposite experience when working with our team at Patreon. Creators are typically understanding of the requirement to change or remove specific content, but want to have control over how it is done and be part of the process. By disabling public access to the page we remove the risk the content poses to Patreon, and then allow the creators to control the moderation and removal process. We can be clear with creators what steps they need to take for the suspension to be lifted, but allow the creator to retain their agency.

Sometimes we are forced to remove a page, cutting off funding of a creator. Typically this is reserved for the most egregious content risks or when we see repeated re-offense. Even in these situations, we provide a path forward for the creator by allowing them to create a new page. We give the creator a list of their patrons' emails and offer them the opportunity to start fresh. This gives creators the opportunity to create a page within our guidelines, but resets their page and their relationship with patrons.

Permanent bans for individuals are the final possible step of this process, and the only bans we have issued so far have been for extreme situations where the creator's past behavior is a permanent risk, such as creators convicted of serious crimes.

How Will it Work at Scale?

Admittedly, Patreon has some unique advantages as a platform that allow us to spend much more time on our moderation and removal process than most platforms can on a per user basis.

The first is that the value to the platform of each new user on a content hosting platform run by ads is lower compared to the value of each new Patreon creator with subscription payments. In fact the controversy of any individual creator is often a function of the amount of income they are making. If a creator isn't making much money on Patreon they represent a lower risk. It is often only when that creator's income becomes more significant that concerned individuals will report it and then we investigate to see whether it complies with our guidelines.

The second is that Patreon isn't a discovery platform. Discovery platforms solve the problem of zero to fan, of introducing a creator's work to the world and getting fans as a result. Patreon solves the problem of fan to patron, of getting those fans engaged and willing to support a creator with direct-to-creator contributions, rather than generating user ad impressions that send a creator pennies from an ad-revenue share.

This lack of focus on discovery means two things. First, we don't promote people landing on creator pages they don't already know about, massively de-risking the possibility that someone who is offended by any particular piece of content will be exposed to it. This means everyone landing on a Patreon page has generally already self selected to want to go there. Second, much of the actual content on Patreon lives behind a paywall, dramatically reducing the possibility of the content going viral, and again reinforcing the self selective nature of the people viewing that content on Patreon.

These advantages mean we can continue to build and improve our moderation and removal process in a way that will scale without losing our human touch. We will always prioritize making sure creators can trust Patreon to run their creative business and have agency in the moderation and removal process.

Colin Sullivan is Head of Legal for Patreon


Reader Comments

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  • icon
    Toestubber (profile), 12 Feb 2018 @ 3:49am

    Patreon has thrown in with Paypal's longstanding jihad against adult content (including, on Paypal's part, freezing assets of anyone involved in sex work or advocating for those who do - regardless of the sexless nature of any particular transaction).

    Accordingly, Mr. Sullivan has urged Patreon to show its fealty to the Puritan cause by banning various broad _fictional_ elements in art or games, and censoriously "working with" artists to force them to negotiate a growing list of taboos. In light of this, the self-puffery in his press releases is a bit insulting.

    I'm not a content creator myself, just a fan of a wide range of artists. But seeing the hypocritical way Patreon treats its creators makes me loath to support the company with my dollars. I've had to seek out direct donation methods that Patreon can't skim.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2018 @ 9:53am

      Re:

      Patreon also completely blocks anonymous users from browsing their site. If I can't even see what people are asking for, I'm not going to rush to get out my credit card.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Feb 2018 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re:

        What are you talking about, the front page has an explore option, which allows you to look at categories of creators, and go to a creators page to see what they are about, although you won't be able to see all their content. No logon required.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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