What is Trust and Safety and why is it important? 

Anna Schiller
Anna Schiller
Sep 28, 2023 / 4 min read

Broader concepts of trust and safety have been around for centuries, but they have taken on a new meaning in the digital age. In the past, trust and safety was primarily concerned with physical safety, such as preventing theft and violence. However, in the digital world, the nomenclature “Trust and Safety” has come to include issues including online fraud, content moderation, cybersecurity, and civic integrity.  

Trust and Safety in the Digital Age

The rise of the internet and social media has made it easier for people to connect with each other, but it has also created new opportunities for harm. Online fraudsters can easily steal people’s identities and financial information. Cyberbullies can use social media to harass and intimidate their victims. And hate speech can be used to spread division and hatred. While there have been several events that shaped how Trust and Safety evolved as an industry, there were two pivotal moments that dramatically changed its trajectory: the Cambridge Analytica scandal in the mid-2010s, and the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Indeed, those events led to increased regulatory pressure on tech companies to ensure civic integrity and transparency in democratic elections, as well as tackling disinformation. 

In response to these challenges, businesses, especially tech firms, have begun to invest heavily in Trust and Safety, in order to ensure online security, protect users from harm, create a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, as well as contributing to civic integrity. Ultimately, addressing those issues aims at positioning tech companies as trustworthy and reliable businesses, which, as far as the theory goes, helps mitigating regulatory and reputational risks. Trust and Safety programs typically include a number of elements, such as: 

  • Risk assessment: The first step in developing a Trust and Safety program is to assess the risks that the business faces. This will help identifying the areas where it needs to focus its efforts. 
  • Policies and procedures: Businesses develop clear policies and procedures for dealing with Trust and Safety issues. These policies should be communicated to employees and customers. 
  • Training: Employees should be trained on the business’s Trust and Safety policies and procedures. They should also be trained on how to identify and report potential problems. 
  • Comms: Communicating Trust and Safety policies also comes as a priority, in order to showcase external stakeholders (such as users, clients, the press, industry groups, NGOs, and regulators) the efforts that have been put in place to protect users and ensure a safe online space. 
  • Technology: Business use technology to help it to monitor and manage Trust and Safety risks. This technology can include tools for fraud detection, content moderation, and incident response. Usually, a mix of AI, machine learning, and human review capabilities are employed to enforce Trust and Safety policies. 
  • Partnerships: The business should partner with other organizations, such as law enforcement and industry groups, to share information and resources. 

The Growing Importance of Trust and Safety Outside of Tech

In the last decade or so, Trust and Safety was primarily seen as a concern for tech companies. However, its importance is now being recognized by businesses in all industries. This is because the business world is becoming increasingly digitally interconnected, and companies are now exposed to the same risks of fraud, abuse, and other harmful activities that tech companies face. 

For example, the financial services industry is increasingly reliant on digital channels, such as online banking and mobile payments. This makes it more important than ever for financial institutions to have strong Trust and Safety programs in place to protect their customers from fraud and other financial crimes. 

The healthcare industry is also facing increasing challenges in the digital age. Patients are now using online platforms to share health information and to connect with healthcare providers. This creates new opportunities for patient privacy breaches and other harmful activities. Healthcare organizations need to have strong Trust and Safety programs in place to protect their patients and their data. 

The retail industry is also seeing a rise in online shopping. This makes it more important than ever for retailers to have strong Trust and Safety programs in place to protect their customers from fraud and other online scams. 

In conclusion, Trust and Safety is becoming increasingly important for businesses in all industries. Businesses that fail to take these issues seriously will be at a competitive disadvantage. By investing in Trust and Safety, businesses can protect their customers, their data, and their reputations with external stakeholders. They can also strengthen their market position as leaders in responsible, trustworthy and user-centric business practices.

*This post was authored by Lorenzo Genito. For more information on Trilligent’s work on Trust and Safety please contact Anna Schiller


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