In June the Tech Coalition released TRUST: The Voluntary Framework for Industry Transparency (the Framework). The Framework provides flexible guidance to tech companies seeking to build trust and demonstrate accountability by providing transparency reporting concerning their efforts to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA). We sat down with Liz Thomas, Director of Public Policy, Digital Safety, Microsoft, to learn about the process of developing the framework, and the benefits for the industry.
You led the Tech Coalition working group that developed the Trust Framework, what were the things that were prioritized during that process?
Liz Thomas: First, we wanted it to be something that would work for the Tech Coalition membership but also the industry more broadly. We prioritized developing a framework that would be workable for a range of companies; providing the flexibility for a range of companies to pick it up and use it across their unique services..
What are the benefits of developing a transparency report to Microsoft, specifically, and how do the insights garnered from transparency reports improve your work on the issue?
Externally, it helps us tell the Microsoft-specific story of how we are addressing this challenge in a way that is appropriate for us as a company and for our services. The Digital Safety Content Report enables us to share our approach, describe the tools and processes that we use, and provide insight from the data that we have collected. It’s key to go back to the title of the Tech Coalition framework here, as this is all is about our efforts to build trust in what we are doing in this space with our stakeholders and our users.
What are your hopes with the Trust Framework; what impact are you hoping it will have?
LT: We are hoping that it can provide guidance for companies across the industry - both in the Tech Coalition membership and a wider range of companies - to help them feel like transparency reporting is important and approachable. We also hope that companies will join the Tech Coalition and take advantage of the mentoring and resources that are made available to them. It is really about giving companies the tools to get started and to learn how they can tackle the issue of online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Secondly, it will hopefully help a wide range of stakeholders have an informed conversation about all the actions that are being taken to address this shared challenge, including understanding the evolving threat, the safety measures that different companies have in place, and where there are still opportunities for further progress.
What inspires you to do this work?
LT: Technology has such a big presence in our everyday lives that it can be easy to underestimate the impact it has on people - both good and bad. What we do [in trust and safety] is try to understand the social and human impacts technology can have, which includes having informed conversations and working with a range of stakeholders. These are real-world issues that take place in an online space, and it feels really meaningful and impactful to drive towards solutions.