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What does “Trust and Safety” Mean Anyway?

'Trust and Safety', 'Abuse Mitigation', and 'Content Moderation' are terms that are interchangeably used, frequently misunderstood, and often conflated. To successfully navigate the complexity and nuance of online safety, it is crucial to establish clear definitions of what these terms mean.


Trust and Safety

Trust and Safety represents the broadest set of practices and policies used to secure online platforms and ensure a positive user experience. This includes both proactive and reactive strategies. Proactive strategies may include implementing design schemes that ensure user data protection, safe interaction and engagement; the development and enforcement of community guidelines; user education; and identity verification, in addition to having systems that facilitate safe financial transactions. Reactive strategies, by contrast, include crisis management and incident response methods that are used to counter data breaches, attacks, scams, or other events that impact users’ trust in the platform. Another branch of Trust and Safety deals with ensuring the platform is legally compliant with regulations regarding privacy and user safety.

One important aspect of Trust and Safety is the emphasis on cultivating a positive user experience rather than just preventing harm. This is achieved through privacy protection, user support, and transparency.

Abuse Mitigation

Abuse Mitigation is considered a sub-field within Trust and Safety, given its narrower focus on identifying, preventing, investigating, and remediating abusive behaviors on the platform, as opposed to creating an overall sense of user safety. Like Trust and Safety, Abuse Mitigation also encompasses proactive and reactive strategies. Proactive strategies include monitoring, tracking, and analyzing behaviors correlated with suspicious activity to prevent various types of abuse. Reactive measures include responding to spam, hate speech, misinformation, harassment, and other forms of abuse as they occur.

While Trust and Safety includes minimizing regulatory risk, ensuring legal compliance, and establishing the policies for what safe and positive user interaction looks like on a platform, abuse mitigation is often concerned more specifically with implementing the technical infrastructure required to detect, flag, and manage abusive content. Such infrastructure may include rule-based logic, and AI, in addition to systems that provide user reporting and support tooling.

In this way, Trust and Safety sets the context, guidelines, and policies, and abuse mitigation implements the mechanisms to deal with users who violate said policies.

Content Moderation

Content Moderatio_n is specifically focused on monitoring and managing user-generated content to ensure it complies with policy, community guidelines, and legal requirements. Since abuse vectors are not limited to user-generated content, they could include several platform features, such as the exploitation of free compute offerings or onboarding flows in violation of policy. Therefore, abuse mitigation has a wider focus than content moderation, which focuses on reviewing and ensuring that what is posted or shared by users, including text, images, videos, and code, is managed in compliance with platform policy. Content moderation can include manual, automated, or some combination of methods. Manual moderation may rely on human reviewers or community reporting. Automated methods may use algorithmic, rule-based, or AI implementations to remove harmful content.


In summary, Trust and Safety encompasses the broadest range of topics, including user experience, legal compliance, and overall community safety. Abuse mitigation looks at tactical and technical solutions to prevent platform abuse and spam, and content moderation focuses specifically on ensuring user-generated content is compliant.

Securing online platforms is a nuanced and context-dependent topic. Establishing clear definitions regarding fundamentals gives us a foundation on which more complex discussions can take place. While this vocabulary may differ depending on the organization, understanding the main differences between Trust and Safety, Abuse Mitigation, and Content Moderation can enhance the precision with which these ideas are communicated. Not only is this precision crucial when building technology, but it is also imperative given the legally sensitive nature of this work.