When Social Networks Put Online Safety First, We All Win

 “If we’re looking at the current zeitgeist, you have a consumer base that’s looking toward tech companies to showcase moral guidance.” — David Ryan Polgar

Users are fed up.

Tired of rampant harassment and abuse in social media, consumers have finally begun to demand safer online spaces that encourage and reward good digital citizenship. And they’re starting to hold social networks accountable for dangerous behavior on their platforms.

But what exactly are online safety and digital citizenship? And what can social networks do to make safety an industry standard?

We spoke with Trust & Safety experts David Ryan Polgar of Friendbase and Carlos Figueiredo of Two Hat Security to get their thoughts on changing attitudes in the industry — and the one thing that social networks can do today to inspire civility and respect on their platform.

Click play to listen:

Highlights & key quotes

On safety:

“Online safety… is very similar to driving. There are lots of dangers to getting on the road, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get on the road.” — David Ryan Polgar

“It’s important for us to consider not just safety, but what is a healthy online experience? It’s okay to have a certain amount of risk that will vary from community to community… We don’t want to focus just on the dangers and risks.” — Carlos Figueiredo

On “safety by design”:

“There are lots of examples where a company scaled up quickly and aggressively got millions of users, but they didn’t necessarily have the features in place to have a safe experience. We want safety, but we also want vibrancy, that happy mix  — what I call a ‘Goldilocks zone.’ And the danger is, once you get labeled as a place that allows for toxic behavior, it’s very difficult to alter that perception, even when you change some of the tools.” — DRP

“Whenever possible, safety needs to be a product and design consideration from the very beginning… by having this proactive approach, you can prevent a lot of issues.” — CF

On setting a positive tone in your product:

I think the big thing is intuitive tools. That’s always been a big complaint for a lot of individuals. Once you have a problem online, is it intuitive to report it? And then, potentially more importantly, what’s the protocol after that’s been reported?” — DRP

“One thing that I would definitely recommend that people start doing is, if they don’t have an individual or a team in charge of community well-being or community safety, have somebody where at least a big chunk of time is dedicated to this – and a team, even better. Put that as a key priority of your product. Employ really solid people who understand your community.” — CF

Online safety & digital citizenship resources

David is a board member for the non-profit #ICANHELP, which holds the first annual #Digital4Good event next month at Twitter HQ. This highly-anticipated event brings together students, representatives from the tech industry, and teachers to discuss and celebrate positive tech and media use.

Learn more on the #ICANHELP website, and follow @icanhelp and #Digital4Good on Twitter. 

Don’t miss the live-streamed event on Monday, September 18th. Carlos will be moderating a panel with three very special guests (more info to come!). They’ll be talking about player behavior in online games.

Two Hat Security is hosting an exclusive webinar about community building on Wednesday, September 13th. In The Six Essential Pillars of Healthy Online Communities, Carlos shares the six secrets to creating a thriving, engaged, and loyal community in your social product. Whether you’re struggling to build a new community or need advice shaping an existing product, you don’t want to miss this. Save your seat today!

David is a prolific writer who thoughtfully examines the ethical consequences of emerging technology. Recent pieces include Alexa, What’s the Future of Conversational Interface? and Has Human Communication Become Botified? Follow @TechEthicist on Twitter for insights into online safety, digital citizenship, and the future of tech.

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 is planning 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.

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.



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 you make online safety a priority in your product.

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How League of Legends Is Teaching High School Teens the Values of Sportsmanship

Ivan Davies of Riot Games has one of the coolest job descriptions ever.

“My job is to try and make a difference to the League of Legends player and wider community,” he says. “I work in a publishing office in Oceania, where I’m not told what to do by my Manager. I’m simply entrusted to make a difference; it’s then up to the local team to decide what direction we should take.”

For Ivan and his team, making a difference means tackling one of the biggest issues facing the gaming world today: How do you educate young players about good online behavior?

Following the Summoner’s Code

Riot Games has long been a proponent of sportsmanship. With 100 million monthly players across the globe, League of Legends is the biggest game in the industry. Because of its intensely competitive nature, it has become known for its sometimes heated atmosphere. Players are expected to abide by the Summoner’s Code, a comprehensive guide to being a good team player.

League of Legends in action

Despite encouraging the Summoner’s Code and being at the forefront of player behavior studies, Ivan notes that “At times, it’s felt like we could do more. Video games are a fundamental reflection of humanity: how we learn, how we interact, how we come to understand our world. We all “play” throughout our lives in some capacity or another. Video games just provide a particular sandbox… the reason they work so well is because of these parallels. The social and competitive nature of League of Legends taps into human fundamentals.”

Last year, Ivan and his team started to wonder what they could do outside of the in-game experience to positively shape player behavior. They realized that it’s not just the gaming industry that isn’t doing enough — it’s also the education sector. Students are online every day, at school and at home, and yet schools are doing very little to teach students about acceptable online behavior.

“Some schools don’t do enough to set students up for an online future. I’ve heard a number of schools hire an external speaker to talk to their students about cyberbullying. This talk may happen once a year purely to tick a box; a curriculum standard has been met, and online etiquette is not considered a priority for another year.” Ivan says.

“Teachers and the education sector have been slow to respond to this online world and setting students up for a future of online activity. The education sector is meant to set you up for life and at the moment not enough is being done to ensure online educational needs are being met.”

It’s all about sportsmanship

In 2016 Ivan and his team created League of Legends High School Clubs — an initiative that is now spreading across Australia and New Zealand. Like other after-school clubs (think AV, drama, or Model UN), League of Legends clubs are led by a dedicated teacher. Under the teacher’s supervision, students play League of Legends in groups at school and even participate in championship tournaments against other schools.

To help students understand and follow the Summoner’s Code, Ivan and his team have outlined six aspects of sportsmanship, which teachers and students discuss before, during, and after a game.

The six aspects of sportsmanship studied in LoL High School Clubs.

“A League of Legends High School Club is intended to promote authentic, relatable learning experiences,” Ivan says. “It provides an opportunity for students to explore and model the key values that exist in schools and in the curriculum. We’ve chosen to focus on sportsmanship and have provided a code of acceptable behavior for players to abide by in their pursuit of fair play.”

Helping teachers and students

Ivan and his team haven’t just worked diligently to promote the clubs — they’ve also built a remarkable set of teaching materials structured around the “Assessment for Learning” framework. Popular in the UK and Australia, “Assessment for Learning” emphasizes ongoing review and adjustment based on each student’s unique needs. Teaching materials include everything from discussion cards and self-evaluation sheets to essential information for school IT departments.

“We need to meet students where they are, and the more the education sector supports what we’re doing, the more likely we can collectively make a difference.”

This connection to the tenets of education is no accident — it’s a particularly brilliant choice on the part of Ivan and his team. As he says, “The resources align with the national curriculum and Positive Behavior for Learning, an initiative in Oceania which many schools are looking to roll out. League of Legends High School Clubs is one way of implementing these initiatives.”

Online changes, offline improvements

The exciting news is that the clubs have a real effect on kids — and not just on their online behavior.

“A year ago, we had this hypothesis that League of Legends could teach right from wrong,” he says. “A club led by a dedicated Teacher can definitely provide those opportunities. Not only have Teachers seen students adopting sportsmanlike characteristics, which has led to outcomes like effective communication and leadership, but some Teachers are now starting to see this transfer out of the League of Legends High School clubs and into the wider school curriculum.”

In addition to the existing 30 schools participating in clubs, Ivan did a professional development session last year to 26 teachers in Perth. As of July 2017, he has spoken to 130 different teachers across Oceania, and he’s eager to meet with more.

“A League of Legends High School Club is intended to promote authentic, relatable learning experiences.”

In the future, he hopes to expand the program throughout Oceania, adding more schools, teachers, and students to the already-growing list of participants. Not only that, he hopes that the education departments in Australia and New Zealand will soon recognize the benefits of the program — and potentially change the way they teach online etiquette to kids.

Why early digital education is crucial

“This is the place to teach online behavior,” Ivan says of high school. “I’ve always seen the education sector as a critical evolution point for young people. As teens begin to explore and experiment with the online world, we must think about how we can best support them on this journey. Let’s not shift the responsibility onto someone else or hope that they will learn online skills themselves.”

He hopes that the success of the project will send a strong signal to the world — that it’s time we tackle the problem of toxic online behavior. “This whole notion of ‘We’re going to wrap kids up in cotton wool. We’re going to remove them from the internet,’ is not an effective solution,” he cautions.

“Our children and our students look to us to set expectations of what good behavior looks like.”

“What we have to do is meet them on their chosen journey and be prepared to walk alongside them, side by side, step by step. As parents and teachers, we need to allow students to inevitably trip up or fall, and as they do we should be prepared and able to provide support and guidance. We should help them to make sense of what happened and why, and then encourage them to continue walking until they are skilled enough to walk on their own.”

It’s clear that the time for early education is now. The Pew Research Center’s latest study reports that 40% of Americans have experienced online harassment, while 62% consider harassment a major problem. As Ivan points out, these numbers highlight just how serious the problem is. The clubs are only the first step.

The future is now

“We, as adults, educators, and teachers have to be prepared to act,” Ivan says. “Our children and our students look to us to set expectations of what good behavior looks like, and if we can’t find the courage, time or dedication to step up and make a difference — what hope does the next generation have? Now is the time for change. The future we hope for won’t exist unless we do something about the now.”

“This is the place to teach online behavior,” Ivan says of high school. “I’ve always seen the education sector as a critical evolution point for young people.”

He’s hopeful for the future. “This is a hot topic of conversation. I spoke to three teachers yesterday, and I’m speaking to two more today.”

He adds, “I believe in a broad and balanced education system which embraces diversity and new opportunities that enhance understanding and student learning. We spend time on the things we care about, and the same goes for today’s students, many of whom are already invested in a digital world.

We need to meet students where they are, and the more the education sector supports what we’re doing, the more likely we can collectively make a difference.”

Find out more about sportsmanship and League of Legends High School Clubs on their site. Don’t forget to download their fantastic Teacher’s Resources here.

Interested in starting a club at your school? Find out how.

Questions for Ivan and his team? Get in touch at OCE-Highschool@riotgames.com.

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