Does Your Company Need A Chief Safety Officer?

by drjim on January 27, 2016

Twitter has a problem on their hands and they think that they need a Chief Safety Officer

Twitter has a problem on their hands and they think that they need a Chief Safety Officer
Image Credit: Twitter

As more and more companies create online communities for our customers to interact with us and each other in, CIOs are starting to see a need for a new type of employee. In any online community, there are a lot of things that can happen. I can’t quite explain why some people behave like they do, but the anonymity of being online and not having to confront people face-to-face seems to embolden some people, perhaps too much. That’s why firms are starting to consider having Chief Safety Officers.

Why Is A Chief Safety Officer Needed At Twitter?

A great example of when a CIO felt the need to create the position is shown by what is going on over at the social networking giant Twitter. As you may well know, Twitter boasts a very large community of active users who “tweet” about anything and everything. However, with that popularity Twitter has attracted its share of both trolls and abuse. These types of users spend their time making disparaging remarks about other Twitter users. This can cause those users and their social contacts to get a negative view of Twitter and choose to leave the service.

In order to prevent this from happening, Twitter has created the role of the Chief Safety Office and Del Harvey is currently filling this role. One of her biggest challenges has been to place control over what each user sees into the hands of that user. This means that if someone is saying bad things about you online, you can simply make them disappear from your online life. Twitter has accomplished this by providing tools that permit them to mute the users that they don’t want to hear from.

In our day-to-day lives, people can’t just come up to us make make threats against us. What this means is that they should not be allowed to do things like this online either. One of the biggest challenges that firms like Twitter are facing right now is the bridging of the online and the real worlds. When someone does something online that they should not be allowed to do, like making threats, then the real world needs to step in. This means that Twitter needs to find ways to get law enforcement up to speed on what is going on online.

What Does A Chief Safety Office Do?

Twitter’s Chief Safety Office really has her job cut out for her. One of the biggest issues is that when someone makes a complaint about another user’s behavior, they want to know that their complaint has been heard. What this means is that the Chief Safety Office needs to create a process by which the person who lodged the complaint is updated on the status of the investigation of the complaint. A challenge to doing this is that Twitter needs to come up with a way to place a context on the nature of the threatening or intimidating comments that were made online. Their ultimate goal is to be able to deliver a consistent experience for the user.

The good news is that Twitter understands the importance of getting this functionality right. They know that they want people to continue to use their service, then they are going to have to be able to provide them with a safe and nonthreatening environment in which to operate. This is exactly why they’ve gone to the effort to create their Chief Safety Officer position.

Twitter understands that preventing online abuse of its users is a difficult thing to do. The problem is that what passes as normal interaction can all of sudden turn into abuse. This makes it very hard to be able to create software that can detect when a user is being attacked. Instead, you always need to include a human in the loop. The good news that that abuse can be detected, the bad news is that it takes both software algorithms and people working together to accomplish this.

What All Of This Means For You

Here in the 21st Century, in order for your company to be a success, it needs to both attract and retain as many customers as possible. One of the key methods that we are using to accomplish this is to create online communities where our customers will feel welcomed and want to come. However, since we throw the door open to anyone who wants to come in, we can get people who don’t want to play by the rules. This is when a CIO needs to create a Chief Safety Officer.

Over at Twitter, they are being hit very hard by unruly customers. People have been using the Twitter online service to say and do things that make other users uncomfortable. This issue has results in Twitter’s CIO creating a new position: Chief Safety Officer. This person is responsible for identifying and getting rid of online abuse and trolls. The job is not an easy job and it can often seem as though work in one area just leads to issues in other areas.

As a CIO you are going to have to determine if and when a Chief Safety Officer is required for your company’s online properties. Constant monitoring of the interactions within your customer user groups is required in order to identify when things start to get out of hand. Bring in your Chief Safety Officer when needed and use them to get things back under control.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Should the Chief Safety Officer report to the CEO or to the CIO?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

How much Microsoft windows software is being used at your company? If you are like most of us, the answer to this question is “a lot”. Microsoft not only does a very good job with most of their software (think Office), but they have also been doing it for a long time – they are a key part of the importance of information technology at most firms. What this means is that over time we’ve all collected a great deal of their software and we’ve built it into our company’s IT infrastructure. However, the bad guys out there know this and they are using Microsoft software to gain access to our company.

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