Creating an Academic Discipline in Online Trust & Safety
The technology industry is facing a major challenge in building trustworthy technology that lives up to the expectations of citizens, governments, and the media. At the same time, academics, policymakers, and concerned citizens struggle to understand the options available to deal with problems inherent in billion-user social networks and the interventions that could make a positive impact. “Trust and Safety” is the term used in Silicon Valley for the internal teams that research, find, and stop abuse of their systems, and it is the term the Stanford Internet Observatory uses to describe a developing field of academic research.
At its founding, the Stanford Internet Observatory set out to conduct research and teach best practices from industry, developing a new field of study and professional practice for trust and safety. In 2022, the Stanford Internet Observatory launched three key initiatives aimed at building the research capacity around trust and safety and training the next generation of researchers: the Journal of Online Trust & Safety, the first annual Trust & Safety Research Conference, and contributing our teaching curriculum to a newly launched Trust & Safety Teaching Consortium. These initiatives were designed to incentivize more robust, empirical research on understanding and reducing online harms. This requires bringing together researchers across disciplines and uniting academic researchers with practitioners in industry.
In addition to these initiatives, the Stanford Internet Observatory continues to investigate operational, design, engineering, and policy processes that address the potential misuse and abuse of platform features. Our publications and reports on this space are highlighted on this page.