Soul of ESG

How to Block Donald Trump and Live to Tell About it (ESG Programs – Online Content Governance)

Aug 11, 2021

By Roy Snell

The types of organizational issues that an effective ESG program can help with are endless and fascinating. Content governance is a prime example of a new socially impactful issue that is garnering much attention. Most people think of Facebook and Twitter when it comes to blocking people and content from social media platforms.  However, tens of thousands of organizations allow the public to write reviews, comment, ask and answer questions, and provide many other types of feedback on their software platforms. Every one of those companies need policies, education, auditing, monitoring and enforcement for what is posted to their platforms; otherwise known as a content governance program.

If your organizations’ policies are not fair or your application of those policies are not rigorous and consistent you may attract the kind of national attention no one wants to be associated with, regardless of your politics.  Taking action or doing nothing about a perceived problem can lead to trouble in the absence of any objective standards driving such actions.

If you are ever under pressure to make policy decisions as controversial as possibly blocking a past president of the United States, you should look for a standard developed by a respected authority to stand behind. This is where SASB may be able to help.

I observed a recent public SASB Board meeting in which their staff discussed the possibility of SASB developing a content governance standard.  SASB already has some elements of content governance primarily related to existing laws.  However, SASB is considering creating a more elaborate standard that could help companies make decisions related to challenges that are not clearly covered by an objective standard such as bullying, freedom of speech and managing misinformation on public content platforms.

Some issues like healthcare privacy laws are easier to monitor and govern with your existing ESG content governance program.  If someone publishes private health information on your website there is no debate about pulling it.  However, if you want to manage bullying, freedom of expression and misinformation on your company’s website you are going to have to make tougher and potentially controversial decisions.

Academics, vendors, and countless people have written articles on content governance.  It is a landmine of political and social bias.  This is why we would benefit from the help of SASB.  They, like many standards organizations, have a rigorous, statistical science standards development process that has proven effective.  If I am going to block or not block Donald Trump or any other notable individual, I want to have that decision based on the most respected standard possible and it needs to be applied consistently.  As hard as it will be, if I were a SASB board member, I would vote to develop a content governance standard.

Below are two slides presented by the staff to the SASB board at a recent public meeting.  These slides will give you some idea how a legitimate standards body goes about looking at complex and controversial issues such a content governance in a rigorous unbiased structured manner.

So what do we do in the meantime? At a minimum it makes sense for organizations to define a clear content governance policy and to enforce it consistently. As part of the policy a statement should be made indicating that content governance is a relatively new phenomena and that the policy will be reviewed annually an updated as society and standards evolve. A quick Google search of “content governance” will give you some sample templates for your policy development and ideas for your content governance process which will be helpful until something more solid comes along.

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