Digital innovations continue to change the way we live and work. To harness the full potential of the digital revolution, it’s important for companies to build up their digital security and resilience to ensure that threats and dangers are well managed.
This is where the Trust and Safety sector enters the picture. While Trust and Safety teams and programs have been in place for more than two decades, the sector has experienced explosive growth in recent years with the proliferation of new digital platforms. In Singapore, for example, the sector has been expanding rapidly since the late 2010s, with several large tech companies building up their Trust and Safety units to serve the Asia Pacific region.
But what is Trust and Safety and what does it do? At its foundation, the Trust and Safety sector is about building safe digital environments on multi-sided digital platforms. Trust and Safety is central to the operations of such platforms, as it allows users – even those who have never met one another – to interact in a way that is safe and fair.
Today, Trust and Safety teams are found across a wide range of industries. In online marketplaces, for example, they provide peace of mind to all users by ensuring that shoppers receive authentic goods on time while also making sure sellers get paid for their goods. Meanwhile, on social media platforms, robust Trust and Safety programs are essential in building safe environments that are free of harmful content, misinformation and disinformation.
Whatever the industry or use case, effective Trust and Safety programs boost confidence among users and encourage them to return to safe and trustworthy platforms. As such, this sector has become key to companies’ sustained growth in the digital ecosystem.
With companies placing increased importance on ensuring the security of their digital businesses, we can expect the Trust and Safety sector to continue to grow, driven by a three key factors: regulations, localization and professionalization.
First, as discussions on online safety continue to develop, we can expect new regulations to emerge to mitigate the risks and harms on online platforms. This may place additional obligations for companies to act quickly or face tough penalties. For example, the upcoming Online Safety Bill in Singapore will require companies to implement measures to tackle “harmful” and “egregious” content, and be subject to annual reporting to regulators. Such regulations follow in the wake of similar regulations in Germany, Australia, and the UK, and it will be heedless to assume that regulators are not studying other categories of digital risks too.
The second factor is the greater localization of Trust and Safety functions, especially in Asia Pacific. This region is far from homogenous, and users come from different cultural, social, political and economic backgrounds – all of which affect the way they behave online. As such, companies need to be mindful of local nuances, and this is where Trust and Safety professionals can bring their localised expertise to the table to help adapt policies and products to the local context.
Finally, we can expect the Trust and Safety sector to further professionalize. The sector is still relatively young, and there remains a market gap for standards, best practices and even a common industry lexicon. We have already seen budding efforts to professionalize the sector, such as the launch of the Trust and Safety Professional Association in the US. However, there is much more that can be done to build up this sector, especially in Asia Pacific.
These driving forces will shape the Trust and Safety sector, and we can certainly expect it to be a bright spot going forward.
Alan Chan is Lazada Group’s Chief Risk Officer. He also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Lazada Malaysia.
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