Stakeholder Engagement


Last modified: October 1, 2019


Gathering input from our Stakeholders is an important part of how we develop Ngage’s Code of Conduct. We want our policies to be based on feedback from community representatives and a broad spectrum of the people who use our service, and we want to learn from and incorporate the advice of experts. Engagement makes our Code of Conduct stronger and more inclusive. It brings our stakeholders more fully into the policy development process, introduces us to new perspectives, allows us to share our thinking on policy options, and roots our policies in sources of knowledge and experience that go beyond Ngage.


Stakeholder Engagement's main goal is to ensure that our policy development process is informed by the views of outside experts and the people who use Ngage. We have developed specific practices and a structure for engagement in the context of the Code of Conduct, and we’re expanding our work to cover additional policies, particularly advertisement policies and News feeds. While Ngage is of course responsible for the substance of its policies, engagement helps us improve those policies and deepen important stakeholder relationships.


STAKEHOLDERS. By “stakeholders” we mean all organizations and individuals who are impacted by, and therefore have a stake in, Ngage’s Code of Conduct. Because the Code of Conduct apply to every post, photo, and video shared on Ngage, this means all organizations and individuals that use Ngage are stakeholders. It’s also useful to think of stakeholders as those who are informed about and able to speak on behalf of others.


STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT. Integrating stakeholder feedback into the policy-making process is a core part of how we work. Though it's important that we not over-promise, we know that what stakeholders seek above all is for their insights to inform our policy decisions. There are many reasons why we may draft a new policy or revise an existing one. Sometimes external stakeholders tell us that a policy fails to address an issue that’s important to them. In other cases, the press draws attention to a policy gap. Often, members of Ngage’s community tell us about trends or the need for policy clarification.


Our Code of Conduct takes many forms; we may convene group discussions, bringing together stakeholders in different regions or specific policy areas, or reach out to relevant Ngage users to get their views. In our conversations with external stakeholders, we share Ngage’s opinion on the proposed policy change, including what led us to reconsider this policy, and the pros and cons of policy options we've identified. When stakeholder views conflict, we analyze the spectrum of opinion and points of disagreement. We want to identify which views are most persuasive and instructive for us, but we’re not necessarily trying to reconcile them; rather, our goal is to understand the full range of an opinion concerning the proposal. After policy development is complete, we inform our stakeholders what we’ve decided.


GUIDING PRINCIPLES. A commitment to stakeholder engagement means addressing several essential questions, such as, how do we decide which groups and individuals to talk to, how do we make sure that vulnerable groups are heard, and how do we find relevant experts? Our policies involve a complex balancing of values such as safety, voice, and equity. There’s no simple formula for how engagement contributes to this work. Our Code of Conduct is built around three core principles: Inclusiveness, Expertise and Transparency.


Inclusiveness. Engagement broadens our perspective and creates a more inclusive approach to policy-making. Engagement helps us better understand how our policies impact those who use our service. When we make decisions about what content to remove and what to leave up, we affect people's speech and the way they connect on Ngage. Not everyone will agree on where we draw the lines, but at a minimum, we need to understand the concerns of those who are affected by our policies. This is particularly important for stakeholders whose voices have been marginalized.


Understanding how our policies affect the people who use Ngage presents a major challenge. This dilemma also underscores the importance of reaching out to a broad spectrum of stakeholders in all regions so that our policy-making process is globally diverse. The question of our impact plays out in many ways. Our policies are global (the Internet is borderless, and our mission is to build community), but we touch people's lives on a very local level. Stakeholder engagement gives us a tool to deepen our local knowledge and perspective, so we can hear voices we might otherwise miss.


It's not enough to ask how our policies affect users in general. We need to understand how our policies will impact people who are particularly vulnerable by laws, cultural practices, poverty, or other reasons that prevent them from speaking up for their rights. In our stakeholder mapping, we seek to put an emphasis on minority groups that have traditionally lacked power, such as political dissidents and religious minorities throughout the world. Our efforts are a work in progress, but we are committed to bringing these voices into our policy discussions.


Expertise. Engagement brings expertise to our policy development process. This ensures that our policy-making process is informed by current theories and analysis, empirical research, and an understanding of the latest online trends. The expertise we gather includes issues of language, social identity, and geography, all of which bear on our policies in important ways. Ngage’s policies are entwined with many complex social and technological issues, such as hate speech, terrorism, bullying and harassment, and threats of violence. Sometimes we're looking for guidance on how safety and voice should be balanced.


In other cases, we're reaching out to gain specialized knowledge, such as how our policies can draw on international human rights principles, or how minority communities may experience certain types of speech. Sometimes the challenges we face are novel even to the experts we consult with. But by talking to outside experts and incorporating their feedback, we make our policies more thoughtful. We’ll continue to consider adjustments to our policies considering opinions from experts and civil society.


Transparency. Engagement makes our policies and our policy development process more transparent. Given the impact of our Code of Conduct on society, it’s critical for us to create a policy development process that’s not only inclusive and based on expert knowledge, but also transparent. We know from talking to hundreds of stakeholders that being inclusive in our policy-making process helps build trust. The more visibility we provide, the more our stakeholders are likely to view our Code of Conduct as relevant, legitimate, and based on consent.


When we engage, we share details about the challenges of moderating content, and we explain the rationale behind our policies and why there may be a need for improvement. We gather stakeholder feedback, so we can develop creative policy solutions to these problems. The policies we launch based on this process are still owned by Ngage, but they are stronger by having been tested through consultation and an exchange of views. Our job as a team is to craft thoughtful global policies, knowing that our work will be criticized by some.


MOVING FORWARD. As the breadth and specialization of our policies increase, so too will the scope of our engagement. We’ll continue to refine our policy development process and work to realize our stakeholder engagement principles of inclusiveness, expertise, and transparency. We expect our team to grow, and our reach to expand. As we expand the scope of our outreach, we also want to investigate whether we might be able to create other mechanisms for users to give us feedback on our policies. These are all exciting challenges, and we look forward to working with our stakeholders to improve the level of our engagement and its contribution to the development of our policies.