Building the Trust & Safety Team at Keywords Studios
The games industry has been aware of the mental health and wellbeing challenges faced by moderators for at least ten years now. And yet to date, we haven’t addressed these issues adequately.
In 2023, the idea of protecting players from exposure to harmful content by giving that same harmful content to moderators to review is no longer acceptable. I get it — it’s hard. But we can and should do better as the close-knit gaming community that we are.
That’s why I was so excited when, one year ago, I was invited to build a new Trust & Safety team at Keywords Studios.
As a former moderator (Waddle on, #ClubPenguin fans!) and Trust & Safety professional who has devoted my 15 year career to building healthy communities, this opportunity was (and is) a dream come true.
I knew that I wanted Trust & Safety to prioritise moderators’ wellbeing and resilience, because I understand the impact that explicit and shocking content has on them. I’ve experienced it myself. It’s finally time we made a positive impact on moderators… which in turn benefits our clients and their players.
Listening to our Superheroes
To kick things off a year ago, I travelled across the globe to visit the Manila studio, where many of our moderators work. I sat down with the team and their leaders to understand their concerns, challenges, and needs. For those who know me, you know I asked them for transparency and honesty — and promised that I would always respond with the same.
They delivered. The team shared their successes and their frustrations with me. I was reminded again of the empathy and compassion that it takes to be a moderator, and their commitment to protecting players from abusive content.
That’s when it hit me: Moderators are real-life superheroes. They wake up every day, look at the worst of the worst content, remove it to protect others, and save lives through their work.
Armed with this revelation, I returned home to Canada with a plan- to build a suit of armour for superheroes, made up of special skills, tools, processes, and knowledge to protect them in their everyday online battles.
Establishing a Headquarters
As much as I wanted to create immediate change in the everyday life of a superhero, I first had to build the “Hall of Justice,” a support network made up of leadership, recruiters, Human Resources, and other key departments across the organisation. Once I had that support, I could start to build something that would have real impact.
It was important to me that Trust & Safety was established as a department that, true to its name, people considered trustworthy and safe. Instead of making empty promises, I wanted to focus on building and lay low while doing so. It was critical to me that we launched only when we were ready to fully support and impact our superheroes.
One key component of this would be to focus on superheroes’ well-being and resilience, with a special emphasis on everyday care. I don’t mean taking the occasional yoga class; I’m talking about self-care practices that superheroes could use to maintain their mental health on a daily basis. And it was crucial that leadership was there to guide them and speak the same language.
Assembling the Dream Team
Of course, I couldn’t do all of this myself. I quickly realised that I needed to build a team of Trust & Safety experts who could fill in the gaps for me. Luckily, Player Support was full of moderation and safety experts who have experienced Keywords Studios for longer than I had, so I didn’t have to look far! Their vision and experiences have been key to our success.
One year later, Trust & Safety is a core team of 17 people and 150+ superheroes and moderation leads, made up of experts from Keywords Studios, Disney, Two Hat, and Microsoft. This incredibly talented team includes Strategy Managers who lead large moderation projects, a Policy and Process lead, a Wellbeing and Resilience lead, an L&D expert, a specialised Content Writer, and more.
The team has worked tirelessly over the last twelve months to make our big, bold dream a reality. I could not be prouder of them.
Empowering Superheroes with New Armour
In February, three of us visited the Manila studio to deliver on what I heard from leaders and moderators a year ago. They welcomed us with open arms.
I get teary-eyed just thinking about it!
It was so inspiring and reassuring to share our efforts with the Manila team. Here are just a few key initiatives that we shared with our superheroes:
- A revised job description that captures the variety of skills and tasks required of superheroes (because we never want someone to take a job that they aren’t prepared for).
- An in-house moderation and language aptitude test to ensure that superheroes understand in advance what the role involves. (It’s important to note that this test doesn’t expose moderators to harmful content, but instead assesses their analytical skills.)
- Everyday care and wellness resources for both superheroes and their leadership, including individually tailored safety plans.
- Leadership training, resources, and support to guide superheroes not only on the wellbeing path but also update them on operational processes that reflect and sustain these improvements.
The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Our superheroes are engaged, they are challenging us, and they have placed their trust in us.
We are hearing great things about the new training. Leaders and superheroes are leaving feeling empowered and supported:
“It’s nice to have a resource that I can depend on, who’s looking out for us.“
“I see self-harm-related content sometimes. Trust & Safety helps me deal with those situations.“
“Just wanted to say I loved the presentation today and I’m really impressed with the work the Trust & Safety team is doing.“
We don’t take this lightly.
Here are the promises that I made and intend to keep:
- We will continue to support and celebrate our superheroes with more training and everyday wellbeing resources.
- We will listen to their concerns and continue to build and improve programs that address their challenges.
- And we will work alongside clients to ensure that moderation processes are considered and implemented early in development, and never as an afterthought.
Embracing A New Era of Responsible Monderation
To my gaming and social platform peers — change is possible!
With care, a vision, a talented team, and support from our organisations, we can change the moderation (and real) world.
The more clients, prospects, and Trust & Safety professionals we talk to, the more excited we are to partner with them — with you — to usher in a new age of moderation, where moderators are supported, praised, and recognised for the superheroes they are.
I’ll check back with you in another year.
To learn more about how Keywords Studios’ all-in-one Trust & Safety services can help you create a safer, more enjoyable community for your players, visit our Player Support page here.