Charlotte Willner Fireside Chat
7:34PM Jan 26, 2021
Questions about the First Amendment. And you'll pause from Facebook kicking off in minutes so look forward to hearing from them and thanks for being here. And if you want to keep the conversation going join our slack.
Hey, welcome back. My name is Tim lordan I'm maybe sorry this morning I'm the executive director of the internet and explanation curate stay the net. And thank you to Alan into the speakers on that section 230 panel, it was, as some of the young folks were saying it was popping off. So we're really excited about that. And leading you know it's kind of a good segue, in a way, because the the section 230 legislative discussion is all about, you know, just dealing with like the big challenges that are facing platforms and social media and refresh online, and those of legislative solutions. But I think a lot of people don't realize that trust and safety as a profession that people actually manage the things that we do online and battle fraud and abuse and things like that it's a massive massive space of people working really, really hard on those issues across so many different companies. Just recently, an organization was created called the trust and safety professional association. It's been a multi year effort to create that program for professionals in the trust and safety field, and just recently, the big challenges need big solutions and the big solutions need a really powerful person at the top, and the trust and safety professional association just hired recently. Charlotte willner to, to kind of head up the organization as they get executive director and she's just getting going. And we really wanted to bring her in and talk about that profession. And to do that is, Neil Potts who's, Director of Policy and trust and safety at Facebook and Neil is in giant in the space, almost as big as Biggie Smalls behind him, and I just nail is going to do a fireside chat with Charlotte, to talk about the trust and safety space, and the Trust's a professional association where it fits into the bigger puzzle. So let me hand it off to to Neil thanks Neil.
Thank you, Tim. That is wonderful and as the kids say at least the kids around my neighborhood. If you don't know. Now, you know, and that's a little Biggie for everyone, but this is an honor to be here at state of the net to talk a bit about the trust and safety professionals Association, and anyone that is in this field, definitely knows the last name willner, and the importance that they have towards trust and safety and really creating the rules of the road. For many of our social media companies other tech platforms. As we enter into the 21st century and beyond. So it's really an honor to be here today. And I'm thinking, as mentioned Tim mentioned I'm at Facebook now I'm a public policy director over trust and safety and I've been at Facebook for almost five years, coming in 2016. And prior to 2016 I don't know much about quote unquote TNS like they were close in the alphabet as T right, but I didn't know anything else about it. And at that point, Charlie, actually had a decade in the game as the kids say she had a decade under her belt. I was has been doing this for a long time, so not new to this but true to this when I was just a young young lad in there but Charlotte It is great to see you. So ever so happy that we get to connect even in this weird environment at state of the net and I'm sure the joke has been made already but I must do it. I don't know how the state of the net is doing on the East Coast sounds like everything has been an outage, but I'll get my, my dad jokes out of the way early but. Good to see you, Shawn How are you,
I am, I'm suffering through so many dad jokes on my side too. We got a, you know, two parents at home we got two kids at home it's a, it's a, I mean it's a great time to start an entirely new job, make a huge career change which is what I chose to do so. Thank you so much for for welcoming me here and thank you to all of you for inviting me It's my life's delight to talk about trust and safety professionals, and I'm really hoping to be able to share a lot about that with you today.
No, and I think it's really important for, you know, many of us to to understand a bit more about trust and safety and I somewhat jokingly said, putting the TNS together but thinking of this, even from five years ago to now where it is today. The size of the industry and that this is a really viable career for many people, and the role that they play, and we have so many folks talking about all the issues too sure whether that is regulations to govern speech online. All of the, you know, kind of matters that really are important top of mind for folks that, whether it's the times of the journal or online thinkers will will go ad nauseum but there are a group of people who are doing their best to, I think, really tried to promote the principles of trust and safety and to that number into that letter I want you to perhaps maybe just give us a little bit of a walk through your career. You know I know that you started a Facebook but maybe others don't. a little bit about Facebook. What brought you from what cause you not necessarily cause you to leave Facebook but that would cause you to shoot after, and then.
that's actually what I thought it's all part of my gossip back, and then. But then, we're really motivated you to take this role.
Absolutely, yeah. So I, I graduated with an English degree, which I love to tell people because this is living proof of what you can in fact do with an English degree. I did begin my career at Facebook at the time I started in customer support it was, as it was then known CS, now known as computer science very different. And I started off, originally just doing like manual password resets so this was like the days before security questions. And then even when we had security questions there was no automated way to reclaim your password which I think most of us take for granted now you know you click a link and it sends you a secure link and it's fine. No, no. So we were the team who was sitting there, having to type out to people. Okay. What is your favorite pizza topping, and then waiting for them to respond and then they would inevitably get it wrong because it turns out people's toppings, the favorite changes all the time. So, you know, cheese and pepperoni, maybe it's mushrooms the next day and you lost your Facebook account forever So fortunately, many changes have happened since those days when I was there I, I started with our international support team I ran our share first international support team at Facebook. Because I spoke some French, and that was sort of how we did it back then. So fortunately also move beyond those days, I did that for a few years and then switched over into safety, as it was then known at the time, I was the first safety manager on the operation side at Facebook. And in those days, that was any sort of real world or imminent harm, which of course now has a vast galaxy of people working on it at least, I was just on the career site. The other day looking at all the varieties of things and it's incredible just how much it has grown you know when I left Facebook in 2013, I had a team of 40, and we had maybe about 100 outsourcing partners, and that was it. That was, that I could know everybody who worked on trust and safety issues at Facebook and clearly that is no longer the case. But that sort of illustrates the necessity of an organization like the trust and safety professional association. I went on to Pinterest in 2013 and found their safety team their trust and safety team on the operation side and one of the things I noticed immediately was how much work I was having to redo and how many wheels I was having to reinvent just starting at a new company that wasn't some backwater company it was Pinterest right yes good people over there, but so much of that sort of institutional knowledge that we built up at a place like Facebook, you had to start completely over someplace else and that's another thing that I've been thinking about a lot as I've watched more and more people come into the space. A lot of people have to learn these trust and safety lessons the hard way. And it doesn't actually have to be so hard, there are ways we could make that easier for the practitioners. And so one of the reasons I really chose to, I chose to do a career change and a pandemic which is a very normal thing to do. It's
bold you're you're on the cutting edge so
yeah I like to be on the cutting edge. But one of the reasons is that, you know, of course, trust and say, the work of trust and safety. I think is in the public eye more than ever now. And those practitioners are in the public eye more than ever now but those practitioners are a lot of regular people who do a lot of really hard work, have a lot of really good insight and there's just not a lot of connective tissue right now in that whole body between the sorts of people who do that work. But all the different types of work that get performed in that space. And people outside the industry like the ones I think I am probably talking to right now on the other side of this zoom in, there's so much potential there. And that's, that's why I want.
No, that's wonderful I maybe just to kind of tease that out because I think you're absolutely correct that there are so many people. that are, you know, being introduced to trust and safety, maybe over the last, you know, three or four years. It's become a bit more commonplace to kind of know these terms or at least how some of the companies are using them to operate in, whether it's create policies and force offs but if you can maybe describe a bit about the roles of trust and safety professional hold because they're they are very they are very, there are many roles again.
Absolutely yes I think a lot of people. In fact, one of the questions we got when we were founded when we were getting set up was, Why aren't you the content moderators professional association and it's because well, content moderation is a big part of what we do but that's not the only thing that happens in the custom safety universe so for us redefined trust and safety professionals anyone who is developing or enforcing policies that define acceptable behavior online. So yes that is you know the the content moderators that you might think of. But that's also policy writers, that's also, you know, one to one reviewers that's a risk analysis professionals that's some legal and compliance work that can be some product work some engineering work. So it goes pretty far beyond, you know, this, this, I think more antiquated notion of like the person in front of a computer saying yes or no. Though again that is actually a huge part of what the space does as well.
That's, uh, I appreciate that I want to kind of dive in, perhaps, a few questions about the size and scope. And that's something that's, you know, kind of really came over me recognizing the scope and size of just online communication in general in the billions of people that can interact on the various platforms, and then to think about the size and scope of what the trust and safety professionals Association can be and the folks who work in this space but maybe just before we get there, you mentioned a variety of jobs. What tip for you as a leader in this industry as a person that came into the industry in 2006, and now has, you know, kind of see that you know achieve these heights. When you look at building a team and you're looking at trying to craft the right trust and safety organization and in finding the attributes that make someone actually skilled and good in this area, what do you what are you looking for and what would has stood out to you as something that's that's a really valuable trait to be a tsp.
Absolutely. I think. I think one of the most important things you can do in setting up a trust and safety team is evaluate what is your product for right or what is your organization for, and really do a good thing about who are the voices that then need to be in that room in order to make this a success understanding that is if it is a success. You're going to grow and you're going to grow in ways that you maybe don't anticipate but you then have to adapt to. So when I'm looking at who's really successful in this field that is people who are adaptable, right, who are able to come in and not really necessarily know what they're getting themselves into that day but no they're down for the challenge. It's people who are resilient, right, who are really able to grapple with difficult things and maintain balance with that in their lives with their families with their personal relationships, and it's people who are able to bring a different perspective to the table, than the rest of the group. And I think that in particular is something that's very important to consider it because of the growth potential that your product has you know when I was first at Facebook. I'll never forget the day we started seeing pornography, on Facebook. Can you imagine. Just a little. And specifically, it was coming from this exotic international location, Ontario. We'd never seen something like this before, way back in those days. So, yes, yes. Um, we, we had to, you know, we looked around the room and I tried to figure out okay well what do we do with this kind of content and of course that was extremely vanilla as they say compared to what came later but, um, you know as we were grappling with new and different challenges. We, we realized Facebook was designed as an example, Facebook was designed to connect the world, but we didn't actually know as like a bunch of 20 something white college kids out of like a lot of fancy schools. We didn't know what the world needed. We didn't we didn't feel particularly qualified to be able to say I Yes, here is how people should behave and so you know we did our best in that time with sort of the principles that we could read about the research that was, that was available which as you may remember 2007 was none, or very little. But at the end of the day, you know, we only really felt like we found our sea legs once we were actually able to hire people who came from other places, who had had different upbringings who were able to really explain this is the impact of a decision like this and how you can expect it to play out on your platform. And that's where I think again the role of the trust and safety professional our job in a lot of these companies and a lot of these organizations is explaining that impact to people say okay, if the if we decide to do the following. Here's what's probably going to happen right here's what's going to happen within the ecosystem of the product, here's what's going to happen in terms of real world harm or real world impact, here's what's going to happen to the people who are actually engaged in the work. And that's a lot of what we, we are trying to focus on as an organization
that's well said that risk analysis and maybe, the way that you framed it I love, we don't necessarily have to kind of reinvent the wheel each time that there are organizations that have, you know, stood up and they've become much more mature since the early days and there are lessons learned, again, not to say that one organization has figured it out completely, but learning from those that have already experienced them. I think is really important and I really do appreciate your words about the both diversity and cultures and perspectives, you know, race, gender, ability down the line, and thinking of the impact that it has on the community because the way that I know that you've described it sort of this way in the past to is that in many ways, trust and safety professionals they serve as you know advocates for the communities that they that the platform's seek to reach and that is one that, whether it's from a safety professional perspective or a trust perspective, things that we need to do to make sure that the policies make sense to me sure that people's experience. Online is a right question I do want to tease this out a bit. So, because we've had such a, you know, like a unique perspective on these things, thinking through, you know, I'm at now, mature Facebook, if we if we if we are mature in that sense of, you know, been around much longer than some of the startups. What do you think, kind of, are the challenges for a startup entering in this space and perhaps what do you, you've hinted at this, but other things that you would love to achieve through the tspa to ensure that new entrants into the community are supported Well,
yeah, I, as I mentioned, I just joined this is like day 33 for me, I think, but I'm in there like just saying what we're all about. So, um, sounds like you have
a three I gave you a month. So,
here we are. So here's what I believe we're gonna be working on and, you know, have you ever been to give us some feedback. So, the main focus is we are going to have as an organization and we have already are connecting and convening our community, and that is a vast community, you know, right now we have a certain set of founding corporate supporters and we will be expanding that but we also need to figure out okay how are we actually being inclusive of the over 100,000 content moderators alone around the world. And that's a big job, but we do want to be active in connecting all professionals in that way. We need to be providing resources for navigating the challenges that are somewhat unique to our profession. An example of this is with wellness and resilience programs, especially in the early days of trust and safety. The only people we could really get to come in and talk to us about this sort of work were like vicarious trauma counselors who had done like a counseling for EMTs and ambulance workers, because it was like well that's kind of like, it's like well that's not really what we do but there are there are parallels right so figuring out okay like what are the what are what resources are available and appropriate for for folks who really do this job. And then, fostering career growth, which as you mentioned, I really want to have a focus on building pipelines into the profession and up through the ladders of the profession and diversifying the voices at the table, I think, to your sort of original question of, sort of, what is it like for startups in this space. This is a question I think so important for this audience in particular because there is a lot of difference between the Facebook's and the Googles and all these larger platforms and the startups and not just in terms of size or funding or any of these. But in terms of, like, how much one can actually do and what expectations we can reasonably have of them. And an example of this, you know, look, let me pick on, let me pick on a Silicon Valley darling who I know some people there and they are doing a great job. Let's talk about clubhouse right so clubhouse I think if you will, if you're not familiar clubhouse is an audio chat platform essentially and I'm going to get it wrong someone from clubhouse is going to be watching this like. It's an audio chat platform where you can go in and kind of have chat rooms and there's a few speakers like you know you and I talking panelists and then there's a bunch of people listening in, and people can come and listen in real and leave and create their own private rooms, and now picture any of you in the audience if you had to manage abuse on this platform. Right, okay it's real time. It's all audio, so you can't be running any kind of visual signifiers anything like that. Okay. How you going to do it. You gotta have a spy and every pub in every private room, are you going to like, how are you going to do it. And that's a startup, it's a it's a new type of technology. It's really popular. People love this thing right it's got a lot going for it, I was a skeptic I joined I was like, Oh no, I love it. But okay so it's happening right, how do we how do we help platforms like that, who are now going to grapple with like okay we're popular we better figure it out right how do we as an industry, how do we as professionals and how do sort of you as the public do that. How do we account for the fact that listen if it's not clubhouse it's going to be some other startup doing some other cool thing that a lot of people are going to want to get into. Right. Okay. How do we, you know, make rules about that how do we actually ensure that people are having a safe experience, understanding that it's going to be like two dudes in a room it's not going to be the face but trust and safety team of hundreds of people all around the world. And the scale is just so different.
No that's that's really, I think spot on and I hadn't thought of clubhouse in that, in those terms but you have the challenges that they are facing now, you're absolutely correct are perhaps not completely novel, but they are, they are daunting. In many ways, and as as I said many times, 35,000 people now in Facebook focus on safety and security. And we are we are
awesome, I love to hear it. Yeah.
So we have a few new partners there I did want to do that and maybe a little bit of a segue here. We talked a lot about the actual individuals, I'm hearing we talked about why what the organization could do, but I haven't heard perhaps some it voice, how the organization actually came about right and I think we all know, Eric down in Santa Clara and his grade, who was on the previous panel here, but let's hear a little bit more about how the organization came about and perhaps maybe as a segue to how you work with other another the other organization that was recently founded the trust and safety foundation.
Yeah. So yes, Eric. Eric was key to this process. Eric a couple years ago, decided to host a panel or a panel event called content moderation at scale and there have been a few como conferences as they're now called. And the first one, many practitioners went to and we were all like, Wow, this is great somebody should like do more of these yeah you know, and then, you know, a year goes by and we all went to the second one and we're like hey remember how great this was we should do this again. But there wasn't there wasn't like a particular, like, you know, in CPR they teach you like okay you do this and you point to someone and say you're responsible for calling the ambulance. There was no pointing until. Eric and adilyn sigh and Clarence out came together and said you know what, we could be the people, we could do this. And so they did the tremendous work of putting together a proposal for an organization figuring out what are the contours of this, what are the limits how, you know, how would we fund it. They did the roadshow and went around to a bunch of the companies who are now our founding corporate supporters. This was all in a pre COVID world and so at the time, I actually was on the receiving end of the pitch at when I was at Pinterest looked at my boss we thought yeah this seems pretty good yeah we should do this. And I think the idea was like oh we're gonna have a lot of in person events and we're going to like be able to connect with each other and really build those relationships, and that is still going to be a critical part of what we do but I think what what the pandemic has really underlined for us is, you know, one, we need to be able to do these things via zoom for health and safety reasons, but there's also an accessibility question that is actually very neatly sold or self much more neatly by making more of this virtual by figuring this out online because, you know, as you mentioned earlier, you've got what 35,000 people at Facebook alone. Are they all in Menlo Park, they are not right so figuring out how do we get more people together. So that's, that's sort of how we got started, trusses in the trust and safety foundation as our sibling organization and I'm, I'm executive director of both. So I'm kind of like a my own twin. I actually have a twin I should not insult her by saying I'm my own twin that's twin arratia she's wondering Oh,
I wish I would have, I don't think I knew that I wish I would have known earlier because that would have spawned this different path,
eternal and she's a school librarian, she's everything I wanted to be when I grew up, but here I am instead. So, with trust the chosen CD foundation in the trust and safety foundation is meant to sort of focus on improving society's understanding of of trust and safety work like what is this work actually mean as an example of that, like we are already publishing, these case studies done by Coca Cola Institute, which is, they're just like, okay, here's a problem that a platform had to solve. Here are the factors they had to consider what do they do. And that seems so straightforward and they're like hundreds of 1000s of these in the waiting in the wings, but they're excellent for, you know, if you are a legislator or you are a professor and you're having to kind of run through some of the real nitty gritty okay here's a window in here's, you know, a set of hard decisions. How would you evaluate this so that's interviewing role. Right yeah if you're a favorite interviewer you know you're trying to get a job. These are great practice, you joke but actually that is probably how we're going to use them. So, you know, we were doing things like that. We want to be in the role of connecting practitioners and researchers, when the pandemic started we had all these questions as professionals about what is going to be the impact of remote work on these on these workers because they're already doing this very difficult job a lot of them are viewing very graphic content and we're sending them home good new graphic content what's that about. And we, as, as professionals in the space has had a suspicion that there's probably research out there in the world about the impact of graphic work, the impact of remote work but there's probably stuff we could learn but we didn't know where to start, or who to talk to or how to access that. And we want justice at foundation to be a connector there right to be aware of what kinds of studies are out there in the space and how can we make sure that that information is actually getting to practitioners and researchers who are doing studies actually have access to those practitioners as well right they know who to ask for surveys who would ask for studies that kind of stuff. We're planning on amplifying research that's already available are already underway. We make commission. Some research we're sort of working to set our mission on that side of the organization right now but I think there's a lot of need for certain sorts of benchmark studies that I think a lot of our members and a lot of our corporate supporters would be interested in having and I would certainly be interested in. And probably all of you would be interested in having to have some real data behind the assumptions we all make about this work.
I think that's that's spot on especially working for data driven companies but I think it just helps us produce, you know, kind of, very very well reasoned and well, deliberate kind of whether it's legislation or regulation. Even just having commentary that that's better informed is always helpful. I know that we are coming up on time but we want to get to maybe one or two questions to have one from the audience. I think we addressed this a bit but I'll read it as such first congratulations on the new role Charlotte but do you think a trust and safety team serves as a kind of standard for the entire company and its values, or the entire user population and its values and we I think we talked about that a bit about about being an advocate, but I'd love to hear your kind of your cake and how you position your teams in the past.
Yeah. Yeah, I see the follow up to this question is, if the easy answer is both and I regret to inform you. It is both but insofar as you know trust and safety teams are often sort of this intermediary where and I know intermediary has this whole legal definition we're not going to for this that's not what I'm talking about. But, you know, these professionals are the ones who stand between the users, and everybody else who's working on that product or that system. And so you sort of are translating both ways you're in this breach where you're having to say okay the company says this, and here's what we're trying to, you know, educate you on or inform you of, but the user base says this and this is what we need to be conveying back to the people who are building this product or this, the service. There is absolutely. They're absolutely many times for those values conflict, and in some pro social ways and some antisocial ways right there are many platforms out there where users want to do bad things right then and, like, okay, the company doesn't really want them to do that and either doesn't trust and safety team and like, Alright, listen that's feedback that we're just not going to pay attention to. But there are a lot of cases where, you know, especially if you've got a company who is willing to take a lot of risks on growth, who's willing to, you know, prioritize certain metrics, over the years, which is I mean, sounds like I'm subtweeting and I'm not this is like literally many companies in Silicon Valley, their trust and safety teams do end up in in a bit of a tough spot where they're realizing like Okay. Hey, you made this really easy to like upload your entire address book and turn the camera on your phone on but now we have all these problems and this is what it means. And in those cases I think that's where something like tspa. We really want to provide as much information to those practitioners stuck in situations like that, as we can to be like Hey, actually, this is played out at other companies or in other situations and this is how we handled it, and also to be able to be sort of a third party resource for those product teams who might question, they're like well our trust and safety team says this, but I don't know if the end actually being present as I own and they're right yes this is actually works. And being able to sort of broaden that conversation I think helps a lot.
That's great. I think we're almost going to wrap so I'm going to do a couple quick fires here actually let you answer this question they did make sure that we have the website correct, and then three questions directly major introduce my three questions that you think about this. First, trust or safety cake or pie. And then your favorite meme, from your collection, you are the best meme aggregator that I know on social media, your favorite meme of the last, I don't know, let's say six months. We'll go go there, we'll go there. And that way, but just before we answer those questions, two very important questions. What can folks who currently work at platforms do to help further this effort and how can individuals join and maybe that's the best question. How can individuals join and become involved.
So, you got a tsp dot info you get on to the newsletter there's a place to sign up for the newsletter there. We are debuting our 2021 membership structure I hope next week and the next couple weeks. And we're going to be in touch about that, hoping to get, obviously new companies but also individual memberships going so please stay tuned, make sure you get the newsletter.
The other, sorry, what
was the other question, there's like
a pot pie or cake. Oh yes, oh
yes it says okay. Trust or safety I would say trust and that's like a whole conversation at a bar we
will see that we will table that for the next.
I would say
table we have cake and you are wrong. Well,
Betty is like a whole thing so you know we got the cake it's fine I guess
like if you are a win win person I must.
It's my job, my job. No, all threats and then make them Whitman's. My favorite meme I actually one of my colleagues bought me this, and it's now my go to worth money but this is the this is fine dog and you've seen it go through many evolutions in the last six months. But, you know, this is you see one now where there's a fire and there's a bunch of dogs sitting around happy and that's fine. One of them. The fire is just out and he just says oh this is fine, you know. So, last name, Neil Thank you for watching this, this has
been fine. We should do it again. I am going to send it back over to Tim though I know that we have a very esteemed group of guests after the after your hope is a break coming up a couple of key notes in there so look forward to hearing those and thank everyone for the time and Charlotte. Wonderful.
Great to see you all.
Thanks Charlotte thanks Neil created those great just for right now for this point of the first day of stay on the net. We're gonna go to a stretch break and when we come back, we'll have. Matt lire.