At a fast-growing startup, it’s easy to get stuck constantly looking ahead. The next big target, the next challenge, the next innovation and next team member and next customer.
It’s important, though, to sometimes take a moment to pause, breathe, and reflect on how far you’ve already come. So, while there’s plenty more exciting coming from Modulate in 2024, today I want to take a moment to look back over 2023, and just for a moment, allow myself and the team to bask in how much we’ve accomplished in only 12 months.
1. Team Growth
We began the year having just doubled our team in late 2022, and still processing all the changes that growth brought with it. But rather than slowing down, Modulate expanded further, now with over 40 employees across the team. We’re deeply honored that such talented people - and such a diverse group - have chosen to join our mission, and we’ve never been in a better position to turn that mission into reality.
2. Call of Duty Launch
We’ve had some exciting launches in the past, but launching in Call of Duty this fall absolutely was a unique moment - and the culmination of years of effort by our whole team. Activision - rightly! - put us through the grinder to ensure that ToxMod would enhance their community without interfering with friendly banter and trash talk: it’s been deeply gratifying to have one of the top franchises in all of gaming validate the positive impact of what we’ve built.
As conferences continue to recover steam post-pandemic, the Modulate team has been excited to expand our presence and connect with more and more folks. This year, we had the opportunity to attend top gaming conferences around the world, including the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco; G-Star in Busan, South Korea; Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, and Reboot Blue in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
We also have expanded our presence in the trust & safety community beyond gaming, with strong showings at TrustCon, Eradicate Hate, FOSI, and more. These conferences have also been a wonderful opportunity for our team to learn from experts in other industries and help uplevel gaming’s approach to trust & safety as a whole.
4. Launching Modulate Guilds
Modulate takes deep pride in the diversity of our team; and one crucial part of maintaining an inclusive atmosphere with such a diverse team is to recognize that different Modulators may need different types of support. As such, we’ve been excited to launch Modulate Guilds this year, which form Modulator-led support, discussion, and advocacy groups for various demographics within the team, including LGBTQ+, New-to-Boston, and Parents. These are our take on “employee resource groups”, but with an extra dollop of community-building.
5. Giving Back to the Community
Another Modulate culture touchstone this year was our first-ever One Day as a Volunteer, where we took an afternoon and headed to Cradles to Crayons of Greater Boston to clean, sort, and pack donations for children and families in need. I was so energized to see folks excited to contribute back to our community – this is definitely an event we plan on continuing in the future.
6. Awards & Partnerships
Modulate has been honored repeatedly this year, receiving awards and recognition from a variety of media outlets, research organizations, and industry leaders. Among the highlights were being selected as a lead Game Changer by GamesBeat x Lightspeed; being named a Best Place to Work by BuiltIn and GamesIndustry.biz; and being selected by CB Insights as a top AI company. We also just recently received a BostInno Fire “Blazer” award, highlighting our growth within the Boston ecosystem.
We’ve also done our best to shine a light on the great work others are doing this year. Among others, in 2023 we’ve joined the Inspired Internet Pledge of the Digital Wellness Lab; sponsored CLTX, the Boston Celtics’ e-sports league, to launch an afterschool STEM program at the Epiphany School in Dorchester, MA; and helped spread and highlight crucial research by groups like TakeThis into the negative impact of online toxicity.
7. Improving ToxMod
Thanks to the hard work of our engineering, machine learning, and product teams this year, ToxMod underwent significant enhancements to ensure it stays at the forefront of creating safer digital spaces. One of the standout achievements was the introduction of multilingual capabilities, making ToxMod more inclusive and adept at understanding a diverse range of languages and expressions.
Other highlights include proximity chat compatibility, which is especially needed in VR games to better understand which players in a virtual space are being exposed to toxicity; user report correlation to help studios more swiftly and accurately understand the context of player-submitted reports; and the introduction of player risk categories to identify harms like child grooming and extremism which are difficult-to-impossible to detect with a single audio clip (what we call an “utterance”) alone.
8. Advocating for Better Laws and User Protections
Finally, we’ve been privileged this year to gain the ear of regulatory leaders nationally and internationally, giving us the opportunity to share our technical expertise with legislators seeking to walk the difficult, but critically important, tightrope balancing safety-obligations and privacy-restrictions for online platforms. Through our partnership with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), an international non-profit organization focused on online safety for kids and their families, I had the opportunity to join a briefing discussion to discuss the recent amendments to COPPA 2.0 and KOSA as both laws passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee and into the full Senate. I also had the chance to speak with the National Academies of Sciences about the challenges of effective online moderation, and work closely with members of Congress, the White House, and international bodies like Ofcom (UK) and the eSafety Commission (Australia) on charting a path to increasing online safety without compromising user freedom, expressiveness, and privacy.
2024 & Beyond
The journey of 2023 has been filled with growth, learning, and a steadfast commitment to our mission. As we step into the future, we’ll keep pioneering solutions that redefine the standards of trust and safety and content moderation in online communities. Next year I’m especially excited to see continued team growth and strengthened partnerships with other organizations who share our vision for a safer internet.
Here's to another year of innovation, collaboration, and making the digital world a safer space for everyone.