Creating inclusive online spaces is at the heart of user trust and safety.  In an environment where online communities are becoming increasingly divisive and often hostile towards minorities and marginalized groups, it's more important than ever that online platforms and Web 2.0 and 3.0 companies work to ensure a sense of safety and belonging for everyone. Ultimately, creating a safe space for all will also attract more users and allow businesses to thrive.

Though the task may be challenging, it’s on Trust & Safety teams to set new standards for access to all online. Inspired by Pride Month, here is a list of eleven ways we've seen Trust & Safety teams successfully facilitate inclusive spaces on their platforms.

Platform Dependent Practices

It’s important to note that inclusivity may look different from one platform to another based on modes of communication. Text-heavy platforms may require more diversified content, while platforms with images and videos may require diversified imagery. The nature of platforms will generate different requirements as well. One-to-one messaging platforms will not require many measures, while a dating application requires different options and protections. Gaming platforms will have the additional need to ensure that imagery representing users, such as avatars, is diverse.

Despite platform-specific dependencies, platforms must prioritize inclusivity from the start of development and throughout the ongoing maintenance to foster a healthy community. Here are eleven easy ways online platforms can create inclusivity:

1. Company Culture

Inclusivity starts in the workplace. Fair employee policies and a culture that celebrates differences are just a few ways to ensure a diverse workplace. This will attract a wide range of employees, and ultimately be reflected in the product itself. From a better understanding of customers to new ideas, inclusive workplaces create inclusive products.

2. Design

Inclusive design in digital environments enables human diversity. In practice, this idea moves away from the one-size-fits-all approach to providing the best individual user experience for as many people as possible. People of all walks of life can engage by addressing the rarest or most extreme needs- from differences in ability, age, gender, or language.

3. Content Moderation

Without ensuring platform safety for everyone, inclusivity cannot happen. A study by the Anti-Defamation League in 2021 found that 64% of LGBTQ+ respondents reported experiencing harassment online compared to 41% of all other demographics. Trust & Safety teams can help.

To start, a clear policy against discrimination, hate speech, and bullying is necessary for effective moderation. Content detection tools, AI, intelligence, and moderators must be up to par to protect users. The policy must be swiftly enforced for non-compliant users. Furthermore, teams must ensure that content moderation mechanisms don’t discriminate against the populations they are trying to protect. For example, slang or derogatory names might be used by a user in a hateful way against another user, while in a different context, a friend may use the same word in a friendly manner towards another user.

4. Language

Only 16% of the world population speaks English, yet 60% of all web content is in English. By making platforms accessible in more than one language, platforms can reach far more users who will contribute to a healthier, more inclusive online world. Additionally, as a general rule, platforms should speak in simple language to make it easier to understand for all readers. Jargon, slang, or culturally exclusive language should be avoided.

5. Vocabulary

Gender-neutral terms should be used throughout platforms and any content promoted on a platform. Additionally, allowing users to choose how they would like to represent themselves, such as asking for preferred pronouns, makes a platform more user-friendly. However, it should be optional for users to do this. Required fields to create an account should also exclude sensitive data such as race and gender. In the end, it’s about facilitating the choice of self-expression.

6. Images

Visual representation is key to inclusivity. Images throughout platforms, emojis, and a selection of character representations are just a few areas that should include diverse imagery. Stock photo collections like the Gender Spectrum Collection, Lean In, Show Us, and No Apologies Collection makes it easy for platforms to find a variety of images. Additionally, where appropriate, such as in gaming, users should be able to select and mix a variety of genders, skin tones, and other external signifiers.

7. Culture

Celebrating awareness days and months, culturally diverse art and history, and national holidays are easy ways to welcome a range of communities and share cultures with users of all backgrounds. Furthermore, platform content should be mindful of different cultures and populations when targeting users. Content, such as ads, may be relevant for one user, while entirely unrelated to another.

8. Inclusive AI

Social biases are ingrained not only in our society but in artificial intelligence as well. Datasets often contain generalizations that exclude different skin colours, languages, vocabulary, cultures, or genders, creating discrimination on platforms. For example, machine vision technology may only work for small subsets of users based on race, affecting video detection. Platform searches may suggest biased results that exclude underrepresented populations.

However, inclusive AI is advancing. Algorithms can be debiased by changing initial training datasets and shaping a more equal and inclusive future. Trust & Safety teams must ensure that this is a priority among developers.

9. Measure Discrimination

Regularly measuring discrimination brings awareness to platform issues, allowing teams to confront them. Furthermore, when platforms test product changes, incorporating measurements for discrimination should be a priority. Platforms should also welcome feedback from users to help them understand their experiences.

10. Take Action

Platforms have the power to influence not just the online world but society at large – including the offline world. This June, promote LBGTQ+ organizations with fundraising or awareness campaigns. Whatever you decide to contribute, show your audience how you’re helping.

11. Keep Learning

Teams must stay educated. Platforms will only remain inclusive if teams understand their users. This process involves following advocacy organizations, staying up to date on evolving terminology, supporting policies that promote diversity in the workplace, continuously asking for employee and user feedback, and educating your team.

Awareness, Safety, and Empowerment

Creating an inclusive platform comes down to awareness, safety, and empowerment. Without understanding different populations and their needs, platforms cannot make a change. Using this knowledge, it’s the responsibility of Trust & Safety teams to create safety so an environment of inclusivity can begin to develop. Lastly is empowerment. User choice, self-representation, and access to diverse content will empower users to interact on the platform authentically and freely, which builds dynamic social environments where all can thrive.

Written by Mor Sidi, VP of Operations at ActiveFence

Credit: Eduardo Feldman