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Fighting Online Abuse Is A Cat And Mouse Game

This week, the Brand Safety Exchange is joined by the Global Head of Trust & Safety from Kuaishou Technology, Arjun Narayan. Kuaishou is a leading content community and social platform founded in China with close to 1 billion users and a recent $160bn valuation. The company’s core mission is to ‘capture the world and share your story. 

Our host, Tiffany Xingyu Wang, and Arjun discuss the current challenges facing Kuaishou Technology, which encompass both a human resource and technological aspect when curating a safe experience for their users. Arjun has been a senior leader in the trust and safety space for two decades, previously serving other global conglomerates such as Google.

The need for a common standard against online abuse 

Digital platforms are often exposed to heavy online abuse that violates community guidelines, placing users at risk with misleading information around the authenticity of the product or service offering. These practices include

  • review bombing
  • abusive adverts
  • inappropriate rankings

At the core, trust and safety is critical for all companies to ensure their platforms can continue growing organically, however it is well known that with the rate of technologies changing at an astonishing rate, the abuse is becoming more and more sophisticated.

Arjun states “it’s a cat and mouse game” as platforms invest more into their technologies and infrastructure to combat bad players. Arjun urges current and future tech platforms to align and stand united in the fight against digital abuse, recognizing user’s safety as a non-compete space. One of his suggestions is for all platforms to create a unified and open common standard that becomes the anchor point for all companies.

Starting from the design process 

Typically, the first area where abuse manifests itself is in the product. Instead of working backwards after the abuse has appeared, Arjun places a huge emphasis on trust and safety teams to work directly with product architects from the onset of the design process, developing a deep understanding of the users, the community, and the intended use for the product. This in turn will lead to a much more harmonized ethos with fewer silos across all teams.

Arjun shares that tension typically arises when there is a clash between what the company wants and what the community desires. “People who are using the platform might have a very different view of the platform, compared to what the owner of the platform has,” he says. 

Preserving creativity and freedom of expression

Arjun points out that a lot of societal and cultural issues also manifest themselves on digital platforms. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest challenges for many tech platforms is to preserve creativity and freedom of expression amongst users, while ensuring they are within the set guidelines.

After all, content is produced by users across different cultures, imaginations and experiences and typically the jurisdictions of a country play an important role in preserving that freedom. There is no homogeneity guide to culture and this is again where the role of product design plays a huge part in ensuring cultural conflict can be avoided at all costs to preserve a true user experience

For Kuaishou, video-sharing is at the core of its offering thus preserving diverse expression is a key priority. Arjun says the company is a platform for all people to express themselves, not limited to certain influencers or celebrities expressing themselves. Arjun challenges listeners of the show to think about driving solutions to potentially reconcile the aforementioned imbalances and enforce the guidelines without disrupting the user experience. 

Putting core values at the center

As cultures and leadership evolve over time, Arjun also challenges teams and future leaders to ‘distill their core values like a fine art’. It is important to be mindful of continually refreshing company values with full transparency so that community guidelines never lose sight of its core, especially when the community's expectations of the company and the product are increasingly clear. 

As the conversation closes, we circle back to the immediate need for all stakeholders to unite in the continued fight against abuse. “Abuse and user’s safety is not just a local problem, it’s a globalized problem amongst all platforms. The alignment between us all to preserve our communities safety is critical.”

Arjun’s episode can be found on the video below and on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Key Lessons To Amplify Your Brand’s Safety:

  • It is critical for trust and safety leaders to be included in product design 
  • Be conscious of the societal fallouts that often manifest itself through digital platforms
  • A platform’s rules of engagement and content guidelines reflect the company’s core values and should evolve with the changing leadership, culture and community needs
  • A platform must be able to enforce guidelines without disrupting the user experience
  • It is essential for all tech platforms to unite and create a unified global standard for safety