TrustCon 2023: Fostering Trust & Safety in Gaming

We had the honor of attending and speaking at TrustCon, the largest professional conference dedicated to trust and safety. We met with fellow industry leaders to share knowledge and address the unique challenges and promising solutions within the online safety and gaming industries. No surprise here, but we learned a lot! Let’s dive into some of the key takeaways coming out of TrustCon 2023, from creating solutions to supporting video game players to crafting effective (and enforceable!) codes of conduct.

Panel Discussion: Solving the Challenges of Moderation for Real-Time Player Support

On day one of TrustCon, CEO and co-founder Mike Pappas spoke in a panel discussion highlighting the vital importance of trust, safety, and inclusivity in game development and design as the boundaries between gaming and social platforms blur. Speakers Suzannah Fischer, Nyetta Jackson, Mike Pappas, Joi Podgorny, and David Vinson explored key themes:

  1. The Growing Symbiosis: Gaming and social worlds are increasingly intertwined, impacting and causing constant shifts to demographics and player profiles across age groups and platforms. We are seeing younger and younger players in games, especially in the VR spaces.
  2. In-Game Safety: Real-time gaming experiences pose challenges for ensuring player safety, demanding innovative technological solutions to combat real-time harm effectively. Often times, it is too slow or inaccurate to rely on player-generate reports of abuse or harm in games; instead we need real-time solutions that are powered by emerging tech.
  3. Regulation and Transparency: Increased visibility and accountability through regulation and transparency reporting are essential for creating safe gaming spaces that prioritize user safety. This means announcing regular updates to your stakeholders on the rates of problematic behavior on your platform and sharing progress updates on implementing solutions.
  4. Safety-by-Design: Incorporating safety measures into game development is crucial for building positive user experiences and fostering community loyalty as the industry expands into new Web3 and spatial experiences. Why wait until you've launched a game before implementing moderation practices and solutions? Building a game with safety mechanisms already in place helps to set expectations within internal moderation and trust & safety teams that users' safety and wellbeing is a priority, rather than an afterthought.

Workshop: Making the Most of Your Code of Conduct

Later in the conference, Mike led this workshop delving into the complexities of establishing clear boundaries between acceptable and harmful behavior. It was a great opportunity to delve deeper into some of the themes coming out of the earlier panel discussion. Workshop conversation emphasized the need for collaboration, education, and careful consideration in designing effective Codes of Conduct to foster safe and inclusive gaming environments. Key insights and discussion points included:

  1. Audience Understanding: Codes of Conduct should cater to a broad audience, including regulators, legal departments, users, and internal teams, ensuring that all stakeholders comprehend the expectations.
  2. Balancing Transparency and Safety: While transparency is crucial, revealing certain information, such as user reports, must be carefully managed to avoid potential harm, as seen in online dating apps.
  3. Cross-Industry Perspectives: Learning from diverse industries like regulation, technology, travel, and media enriches the understanding of regulation and user conduct. Notably, gaming Codes of Conduct prioritize user-to-user interactions, while other industries focus on safeguarding customer support teams from community abuse.

TrustCon 2023 provided invaluable insights into the evolving landscape of trust, safety, and inclusivity in gaming and other online spaces.

A Couple Other Highlights from TrustCon

Regulations are going to be a big wake-up call for online platforms

A frequent refrain across many different sessions and discussions: regulations are coming, and nobody is ready for them. Upcoming laws, most specifically the Digital Services Act in the European Union, are going to require online platforms — which, in many cases, includes game platforms and studios — to uphold a certain level of transparency in communication with users and with governing bodies. But, more meaningfully, the DSA will also hold platforms accountable and liable for any bad behavior happening on their platforms and has the power to enforce those rules and levy very significant fines. As attorney David Hoppe mentioned in our GamesBeat Summit 2023 panel, “The days of anything goes and turning a blind eye - that’s not going to fly anymore.****

Trust & Safety is getting (some of) the recognition it deserves

This year’s TrustCon was only the second annual event that the TSPA has organized, but you wouldn’t have known that as an attendee. With nearly 1,000 Trust & Safety professionals in attendance and a packed lineup of thoughtful speakers and interesting panels and sessions, there’s clearly a hunger in the industry for tailored content and meaningful connections. But it’s not all looking up: large platforms like Twitter have recently gutted their Trust & Safety teams, and in times of economic uncertainty, T&S budgets are often first on the chopping block. As Ben Whitelaw from Everything in Moderation mentioned on one panel, there’s still no Trust & Safety “beat” at large media organizations, and there’s no significant trade media that covers the industry specifically.