Building safer technology ecosystems through responsible investing is a value proposition for the investment and financial community.
The investment and venture capital community can play a pivotal role in helping to ensure that early-stage technology companies put safety and ethical considerations at the heart of their design processes.
There is a clear, ethical duty for technology companies to preserve the rights and dignity of users online and to protect them from abuse and exploitation. A failure to manage this duty upfront poses significant business risk for companies. There are many examples of the significant reputational and financial costs of the harm itself and of the need to fix the design flaws that allow it to happen.
Many online harms can be prevented, if platforms and services are built with safety in mind, and safety is embedded into the culture and values of companies and the investment community.
However, in speaking to founders and others in the start-up community, eSafety has learnt that the potential to misuse their new platforms and services for abuse tends to be overlooked as they focus on establishing a viable business.
So eSafety has developed Safety by Design principles and resources to help change that.
Far from being a problem to be overcome, online safety can build investor and customer trust, giving businesses a market lead that supports financial success.
Safety by Design can help steer companies away from common safety issues – and from regulatory, reputational and revenue risks – towards successful outcomes well beyond the first round of financing.
At eSafety, we are confronted by the deep human damage that can be done when safety is not at the forefront of the design, development and deployment stages for tech companies.
The types of harmful behaviour eSafety deals with include:
Adult cyber abuse – this is when digital technology is misused to seriously threaten, intimidate, harass or humiliate someone, with the intent of hurting them socially, psychologically or even physically. It includes trolling, online hate speech and threats of violence, rape or death.
Cyberbullying – this is when online platforms or services are misused to seriously threaten, intimidate, harass or humiliate a child.
Image-based abuse – this is when intimate content is shared online without the consent of the person pictured. It includes images, videos, digitally altered material and deepfakes. Threatening to share intimate content and sextortion (threatening to share intimate content unless demands are met) are also forms of image-based abuse. One in ten adults have had their nude or sexual image shared without consent.
Other examples of harmful online behaviour include social engineering scams, grooming children for sexual abuse and using technology-facilitated abuse as a form of domestic and family violence, as well as the creation and distribution of materials showing child sexual abuse, terrorism or extreme violence.
While the motivations behind harmful behaviours are varied, the risks are foreseeable and can be avoided by building safety standards into online services and platforms well in advance.
What you can do
Our Safety by Design principles and resources provide a clear set of standards and easy pathway to support responsible investment and business decisions. They can help tech investors to prepare for and manage future online safety risks.
As a first step, we suggest you review the Safety by Design principles.
Then use eSafety's Investor resources:
- Safety by Design Investment checklist – start conversations with potential investees that will help you assess their capacity for managing online safety risks.
- Model clauses for due diligence arrangements and funding agreements – use eSafety's template or adapt the content to ensure that online safety considerations are built into your investment.
We regularly add to our resources, so check back for more!