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As the head of Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, I’ve been asked more than a few times exactly what it is that my team does at Twitter, and the response is invariably something along the lines of “it’s too much to cover in 140 characters.” Trust and Safety has a simple mission statement: to keep user trust and protect users’ rights. It sounds very pie-in-the-sky and naive, but it’s incredibly heartfelt — and I can say firmly that my team believes passionately in that mission statement.
There are a few different divisions within Trust and Safety. We’ve got an engineering tools team that builds our tools and enables our work, an API policy team that works with developers to help them maximize their use of our API, a policy team that deals with everything from international issues to trademark to DMCAs to subpoenas to parody accounts, and a spam team that focuses not only on spam but also on phishing, hacking, and malware issues.
I joined Twitter back in October of 2008 (decades ago in Twitter time) and since then my team has grown from being just me to 20 people — currently, the largest department at Twitter. We’ve gone from scrambling to try to find resources to fix problems (like people being hacked or accounts being deleted) to creating tools that allow us to identify compromised accounts and proactively reset users before they’re affected.
We continue to hire and we continue to iterate upon our policies and our rules in an attempt to make sure that we’re doing the “right thing” — the right thing for users, for Twitter, and for the ecosystem. Sometimes we suspend accounts belonging to people who didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. They file a ticket, we respond to the ticket, and situation by situation, we evaluate the issue and either approve the appeal or deny it. We process hundreds of appeals per day every day of the week, including weekends. We work hard to straddle a balance between letting “good” users who were just confused or unfamiliar with the rules back in and keeping users who may have malicious intent or simply don’t plan on obeying the rules out. We avoid partisanship and favoritism; we do not mediate content; we ensure that our policies and rules are fair and evenhanded. When we receive complaints about a given policy or rule, we reevaluate it. When we get feedback about the way our system currently works, we listen to it. We make notes for future iterations of tools and procedures; for example, when large numbers of people were being flagged for sending high numbers of @ replies who were just trying to have conversations, we fixed it so they wouldn’t be affected.
Twitter — including the executive team — supports us in what we do and realizes the importance of it. Sure, we don’t always go along with other teams and sometimes we demand changes in projects as part of our role as in-company user advocates — but we’re listened to, even when what we have to say doesn’t make things easy (or makes them drastically harder) and even when what we have to say doesn’t make them happy.
I take what we do seriously. I believe that it matters. I believe that it’s important to protect user rights. I believe that it’s important that users know they have advocates and that their advocates are passionate about what they’re doing, not just going through a rote process. We strive for objectivity, neutrality, and fairness and we do our best to be responsive and informative.
I asked a few of my staff the question referenced in the title of this blog post — why do you do what you do (with the “here at Twitter” implied)?
“I’m trying to make something great.”
“I’m motivated by being part of a company that’s working to empower people through communication, which I’ve always been passionate about. I love helping people and solving problems, which is a big part of what I’m doing here right now. Helping people communicate more effectively is a really positive feeling.”
“I like to be able to contribute to something I believe in. I believe in what Twitter stands for and more specifically, Trust and Safety.”
“I really enjoy shaping the direction the platform takes and what that means for the ecosystem.”
“I’m here for the users.”
“It’s clear and important and directly related to the success of good things happening. The problems we deal with extend beyond the internet — human stuff as opposed to merely website stuff.”
My personal answer is short and simple: because it’s the right thing to do. We do what we do because it’s what should be done and we work really, really hard to do it right. We genuinely care; we’re not a faceless group who has no accountability (if you doubt this, just look at my @ replies) but rather people who want to make Twitter as good as possible for as many people as possible. With over 125 million registered users and 65 million updates a day, there’s a lot to be done and we’re constantly striving to do it better.
I respond to @ replies seven days a week (though not 24 hours a day); my work account is also my personal account. You can find me here: @delbius.