7 min read

I asked, you answered: applying policy outside the US

Platform policy decisions are driven largely out of the US and trickle down to the rest of the world. But what does that look like in practice? And how might that change?

I'm Alice Hunsberger. Trust & Safety Insider is my weekly rundown on the topics, industry trends and workplace strategies that trust and safety professionals need to know about to do their job.

It seemed like last week's post hit home for a lot of you. I really enjoy reading your responses, so please keep them coming.

This week, I'm thinking about how T&S leaders outside the US are thinking about content policy. Here we go! — Alice

Applying policy from outside 'Merica

Why this matters: Platform policy decisions are driven largely out of the US and trickle down to the rest of the world. But what does that look like in practice? And how might that change?

This week, we're expecting decisions from the US Supreme Court which will determine the future of content moderation strategy in the US. As we wait for the decisions, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how people outside the US think about Trust & Safety policy, what working in T&S outside of the US is like, and how companies can have a more global point of view.

So, in last week's T&S Insider and on LinkedIn, I asked for inputs from practitioners that live outside the US of A. There were a number of really interesting responses around policy creation but also where power is located in organisations, which I wanted to share back with EiM readers.

PS Get in touch if you have comments that build on what's here, I'd love to keep this discussion going!

Different attitudes towards regulation

It's implicit in so much T&S policy work that you almost forget it's there: by that, I mean the fundamental differences about how people in the US tend to think about rights vs how it’s thought of in the EU (and elsewhere). Juan Felipe Rincón, based in Ireland, explained how:

[Outside the US] it is more culturally understood that such free expression rights cannot exist for one when they come at the cost of the physical safety of another. Such nuance, from a policy and enforcement perspective seems to come more easily to folks who start at it from an outside-of-the-US perspective, but it can make T&S work difficult when having to confront other stakeholders who are based in the US and who are approaching such discussions from a US-centric legal/cultural framework.

I haven't found organizational ways of addressing this, but at least the metaphor of "US: hierarchy of rights vs EU: bag of rights" seems to sink and make conversations flow slightly more easily.

Add to that the fact that countries outside of the United States are much faster to pass online safety regulation, and there’s a real need to pay attention to countries outside the US.

Policies that aren't always applicable

The startup culture of Silicon Valley, the nature of VC funding and importance of attracting a slice of the US' giant population have been part and parcel of the growth of technology companies and platforms for decades. But it's also part of the reason why policies start with a focus on North America, as Chichi Morales, who lives and works in Singapore, notes:

Most [companies] develop [products] with the view of a limited market/audience - primarily catering to North America and Western Europe. This is understandable as they start, the primary objective is to gain as many users as they can and also generate profits to be sustainable. With this direction, expansion to other regions is seen as a byproduct of the growth that they have achieved in their target regions.

This limited view of scaling their product has consequences on the policies that they have initially outlined for North American and Western European markets, which, are not necessarily applicable to other larger and (also) profitable markets such as Asia-Pacific (APAC). So, global perspective and expertise should be incorporated from the very beginning and at the stage where the product is being developed.

This is particularly pertinent because elections are taking place in dozens of countries this year and because we've seen a political shift towards the far right almost across the board. This leads to potentially volatile situations and — this is where T&S practitioners come in — a need to double-down on online safety to prevent real world harms.

A retrenchment of senior roles

One thing that I found interesting — particularly as someone who has held senior roles in major platforms — is the extent to which decision making is felt to be concentrated in the US. Hiring is a part of that but also how to make sure that their perspectives and insights of folks beyond the main HQ are listened to and their ideas given weight and resources.

Tiago Poças Lopes, who lives in Ireland and has over a decade of experience with many of the big tech companies, explained how he felt that the T&S layoffs had led to a scaling back of roles in EMEA in favour of US-centric roles:

Looking at the T&S job pool today, it reflects this disinvestment. Most of roles in EMEA are from big techs if they have a set EMEA headquarter and can be considered low to medium level. High level roles tend to be kept in US due to the need to have more stakeholders exposure.

Small companies tend to focus on the US, with minimal to non-existent EMEA exposure. Some of these companies also don't have full T&S departments or official companies, which obviously does not help overviewing needs and align location strategy.

The bind is that the US continues to be a challenging context in its own right. We’re seeing a less positive view of social media in the US, with the Surgeon General announcing that social media should have content warnings, and platform experiences generally becoming more enshittified. So this retrenchment is unlikely to continue.

Multi-region representation by design

Managing a global team isn’t always easy — there are time differences, cultural nuances, and language challenges — but one of the most simple ways to avoid disenfranchisement is to make sure that the leadership is distributed. Creating a team that is diverse — geographically and in other important ways — builds in collaboration from the start. Juan Felipe Rincón did just that:

We intentionally assigned project and leadership opportunities in ways that a had proportional chance of being led by staff based outside of the US, and where project teams almost always had multi-region representation, and where project leads in the US were explicitly asked/encouraged to identify items which were globally important vs US important.

This helped tremendously in improving quality of policy, enforcement decisions, and regulatory preparation, and made them more future-proof--while also being responsive to the fact that US issues might still get bumped up to the top of the list because of the power of proximity.

Although employees in the US are often closer to senior leadership, they are naturally separated from other key stakeholders based outside of the US, including as regulators and advocacy organisations. As more regulation passes and the T&S landscape becomes more complex, it will be more important than ever to ensure that decisions aren’t only being made with the US in mind.

For those of us who are in the US, it's integral we make an effort to read about and understand what is happening around the world. In practice, that means:

  • Following news organisations like Rest of World
  • Connecting and learn from with global T&S leaders on LinkedIn
  • Reaching out and talk to advocacy organisations that focus on the global majority

And for T&S leaders outside the US, please share your stories and continue to hold US-based accountable.

I Ask, You Answer

What are your thoughts on safety regulation? Is it helping you to advocate for T&S resources, or is it pulling your focus away from areas that will have more impact? What do you think regulators need to know? Are you able to communicate well with regulators, or do you feel constrained by your employer's policies?

Get in touch

Job hunt

Is the current job market a scam? Are posted jobs really meant to be filled? Have you been ghosted in your job search more than usual? Here's a great conversation from Elevate CX discussing what the heck is up with the job market these days.

Also, Steph Lundberg is back with Bad Job Bingo, one of the more entertaining ways to read about new jobs. She takes requests, so if you're not sure about a job posting and want her take, let her know.

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What Summer 2024 has in store (Katie Harbath, Anchor Change)
Why? A summary of everything happening this summer that T&S professionals need to know about, including elections, court decisions, and global events.

How Q Became Everything (Ali Breland, Mother Jones)
Why? An in-depth article on Q consipiracy theories, and how paranoia about child abuse has permeated our culture.

The Surgeon General Is Wrong. Social Media Doesn’t Need Warning Labels (Mike Masnick, The Daily Beast)
Why? A nuanced view on social media harms and the moral panic happening in the US right now.

Has Facebook Stopped Trying? (Jason Koebler, 404 Media)
Why? A damning take on how Meta is thinking about user safety.

My T&S merch shop is still open if you're interested in a shirt, sticker, or button set. I'm dreaming of a TrustCon experience where we're all wearing the same shirts, Where's Waldo style.

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