If you think you could’ve deflected Twitter’s blue check impersonation debacle, then boy do we have the game for you! Techdirt has released the very fun and not at all stressful game Trust & Safety Tycoon, in which you get to simulate running a trust & safety team at a Twitter-like social media startup called Yapper.
Created alongside the Atlantic Council’s Task Force for a Trustworthy Future Web, Trust & Safety Tycoon forces the player to confront the challenging trade-offs of keeping an online platform safe — is off-platform harassment grounds for banning a user? Is use of offensive slang okay if it’s being used by members of the group the slang refers to? Can you allow bots on the platform without devolving into a haven for crypto spam? Can you build a policy around political misinformation without showing bias toward one political party or another?
These questions are less complex in a theoretical vacuum — but in this game, you have to maintain solid user growth, ad revenue, moderation speed and team morale. And even if you can accomplish that, your CEO might lose confidence in you and give you the axe when you make a wrong choice regarding the fate of a provocateur named “BatDung” (yes, this happened to me). Then, you’ll field requests from local law enforcement who want you to let a suspected murderer continue live streaming on Yapper so that the police can figure out where he’s located. And if you can get through that mess, then you’ll have to figure out how to abide by changing international laws without turning over activists’ user data to authoritarian governments.
By the time you finish the game, you’re given the option to keep working at Yapper, start your own company, consult for the government, or go into an early retirement. If you don’t choose the option of buying a mountain chalet and adopting a puppy, you’re stronger than I am.
The game is difficult: in my first attempt, I was fired before we reached a series B, since my cautious moderation decisions deflated our user growth and ad revenue. Still, it’s entertaining (though perhaps not as entertaining as Rollercoaster Tycoon) and gives you a renewed understanding of how difficult it is to run a social media platform. Though some moderation scenarios are funny — you’re tasked with determining if replying “OK Boomer” to older users is harassment, or if Bronies are a threat to the safety of minors — many scenarios feel urgent, reflecting the real legislation that is passing through Congress as we speak. Can individual states ban TikTok? Can you protect children from seeing porn without requiring all internet users to verify their age and identity? We’ll see how this plays out in the real world.