“Digital citizenship, and promoting a respectful yet vibrant environment is a multi-pronged effort.” — David Ryan Polgar

If one social network doesn’t prevent us from harassing strangers, then can we be expected to behave any differently when we switch platforms? If an online game is designed to create tension, then can we really be held responsible when we lash out at our teammates?

In other words — do social products have an ethical responsibility to encourage good citizenship?

To unpack this tricky topic, we turn to renowned writer, speaker, commentator and real-life Tech Ethicist David Ryan Polgar. He sat down with Two Hat Security’s Director of Community Trust & Safety Carlos Figueiredo to discuss the complex and sometimes divisive subject of social products and social responsibility.

Press play to listen:

Highlights & key quotes

On responsibility:

If [companies] want to have a sustainable business, they need to consider that this is business-critical. — Carlos Figueiredo

I think what we’re realizing is that the environment and the structures that we create are dramatically influential on human behavior… From a company standpoint, they now have that responsibility to try to prompt us towards the better use of their product. — David Ryan Polgar


On the “attention economy”:

We are giving a lot of time to [social media] companies. Does that create a responsibility because we are giving our time to them? — CF

It’s not a typical business-consumer relationship. Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat operate in this quasi-public space. And that’s very similar in law, what they’ve done with freedom of speech in a mall… Now, we, the general public, are expecting a voice in the way these companies operate. — DRP


On forging industry-wide alliances:

It’s so easy for us to think that each of these companies should take care of their own. Of course I believe that, but I also think that it’s time for the industry to have a wide discussion, and to have coalitions and alliances. If there is a consistency and a coherence amongst different companies, suddenly we can’t just have users and players jump from one platform to the other and bring bad behavior. — CF

Unless you have those coalitions, everybody is reinventing the wheel. You’re spending a lot of time, energy, and research in private endeavors instead of sharing, and having this open environment where we’re saying: as a community, as this collective, and as an industry, this is something we need to combat. — DRP


On the future:

I think the tide is turning in terms of digital citizenship, fair play, and sportsmanship when it comes to eSports and games. It’s financially smart and it’s ethically smart for the industry to talk about this. — CF

Social media is like a knife. It can be used to inflict pain or stab the truth. But it can also be used to carve a future that’s more socially just, more connected, and more intellectually curious. It’s like any tool.

The way to push social media forward, to build a better web, and to capitalize on what we know the internet should be, is to take that collective action, where people, businesses, and organizations come together and say “Here’s what we want — now how can we get there? How can we share the knowledge, how can we use the tools that we have and create new tools to build this better web?” — DRP


About the speakers

David Ryan Polgar

David Ryan Polgar has carved out a unique and pioneering career as a “Tech Ethicist.” With a background as an attorney and college professor, he transitioned in recent years to focus entirely on improving how children, teens, and adults utilize social media & tech. David is a tech writer (Big Think, Quartz, and IBM thinkLeaders), speaker (3-time TEDx, The School of The New York Times), and frequent tech commentator (SiriusXM, AP, Boston Globe, CNN.com, HuffPost). He has experience working with startups and social media companies (ASKfm), and co-founded the global Digital Citizenship Summit (held at Twitter HQ in 2016). Outside of writing and speaking, David currently serves as Trust & Safety for the teen virtual world Friendbase. He is also a board member for the non-profit #ICANHELP, which led the first #Digital4Good event at Twitter HQ on September 18th.

His forward-thinking approach to online safety and digital citizenship has been recognized by various organizations and outlets across the globe and was recently singled out online by the Obama Foundation.

Follow David on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Carlos Figueiredo

Carlos Figueiredo leads Two Hat Security’s Trust & Safety efforts, collaborating with clients and partners to challenge our views of healthy online communities.

Born and raised in Brazil, Carlos has been living in Canada for almost 11 years where he has worked directly with online safety for the last 9 years, helping large digital communities with their mission to stay healthy and engaged. From being a moderator himself to leading a multi-cultural department that was pivotal to the safety of global communities across different languages and cultures, Carlos has experienced the pains and joys of on-screen interactions.

He’s interested in tackling the biggest challenges of our connected times and thrives on collaborating and creating bridges in the industry. Most recently, he moderated the Tech Power Panel at #Digital4Good. On Wednesday, October 18th he’s presenting a free online workshop called Your Must-Have Moderation Strategy: Preparing for Breaking News & Trending Topics.

Follow Carlos on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About Two Hat Security

At Two Hat Security, we empower social and gaming platforms to build healthy, engaged online communities, all while protecting their brand and their users from high-risk content. Want to increase user retention, reduce moderation, and protect your brand?

Get in touch today to see how our chat filter and moderation software Community Sift can help your product encourage good digital citizenship.

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