How does Patreon create content policies?

At Patreon, our number one goal is to fund the creative class. We do this by building the best membership platform available for creators of all kinds. Ultimately, we want to get as many creators paid as possible, so they can enjoy sustainable income, retain creative control of their work, and keep a direct connection to their audience.

Why does Patreon have content policies?

Our goals extend beyond what creators get from membership, however, as we also want Patreon to be an intimate and safe venue for a diverse range of creators and their communities. To ensure Patreon is keeping human interests at heart, we built out a Trust and Safety team to oversee policies that shape the platform and support the community using it. Just as our Product team cranks away on product features that will help creators launch and grow their membership business, our Trust and Safety team works diligently to create guidelines, including content policies, that support our mission, while adhering to legal and financial regulations. It is our job to consider what is both appropriate under the law and in alignment with our company’s mission.

Content policy creation is a nuanced topic; let’s take a look at how Patreon creates such policies.

How does Patreon create content policies?

We, as humans, are always interested in rules when they relate to our personal interests. We expect and welcome a healthy dialogue between creators and our team of policy managers, knowing people are curious about policies that tie back to their specific work and art. The job our Trust and Safety team has, though, is to ensure we’re writing and enforcing policies that benefit all creators on our platform.

In an ideal world, content policies would be clear and set in stone. In the real world of today, where new content is uploaded and shared across the Internet every second, we have to be a bit more reactive and flexible. We constantly review our policies with a creator’s needs at the center of our decision making. Our team discusses and debates the nature of technology and the role of regulation. We are a team that strives to evolve as the online content industry grows. The Trust and Safety team is committed to hiring teammates that have a complex and thoughtful process, and can hold opposing thought arguments. Simple black-and-white opinions are not beneficial in our line of work, so we focus on hiring and keeping people who can see and speak “grey” and process context, meaning, and nuance when coming to a decision on content that is funded on and through our platform. As a team, we hone these skills through weekly collaborations and sessions with other internal teams to ensure we have considered all aspects of a given situation before taking any action.

Commonly asked questions about content policies

Our Trust and Safety team strives to create and uphold content policies that benefit the majority of creators on the platform. We frequently get questions asking why we operate in certain ways; let’s address the most common questions.

1. Why can’t Patreon just align with other companies?

Often we’re told that it would be easier if we aligned with other companies (i.e., have the same content policies as YouTube or Facebook, for example). We understand that concept — it would make it easier for creators to know if what they make for one platform is good for the others — but ultimately, Patreon isn’t like other companies. Our mission is unique, and we’re committed to creating a platform in which creators can have many different projects, using all sorts of media. We are trying to build a space where creators from many diverse disciplines can be celebrated and supported. As a result, our policies need to be as complex as our creators.

2. Why can’t you just write policies about what is legal or not legal?

Ah yes, the legal vs. illegal question. We understand why people are curious about this, it seems so straight forward, but in actuality this argument relates more to perfect world thinking, versus what’s true in reality. When questioning if content is legal or not, what is and isn’t legal can become harder to define. For example, the Trust and Safety team spends a lot of time with the Legal team talking about what “knowledge” means in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act or how certain laws and bills will affect the future of Patreon. We try to be as proactive and clear as possible in our policies and guidelines to address concerns that lawmakers might have. We also spend time advocating for our creators in order to retain freedom to have policies that make sense for Patreon’s mission.

3. Why can’t you be more strict or less strict with {insert topic of interest}?

The short answer is that “strict” is subjective, and we strive not to act on one’s subjectivity. The process to create policies at Patreon is extensive, and all policies are discussed at the highest levels of the business. It’s not uncommon for these decisions to end up in very philosophical discussions about biases and culture. It’s important many sides and opinions are discussed and considered; no one person at Patreon is writing these policies in a vacuum. We believe our own political views or personal interests must not define our policies, and as such, we might seem too strict (or not strict enough) to some individuals.

Content and the need for new policies can be unpredictable

When we talk about Trust and Safety here at Patreon, and particularly policy creation, we recognize there are things that happen in life and business that we can’t predict. When we’re thrown those proverbial curveballs, our goal is to walk a fine line between communicating updates quickly and deeply understanding the issue so we communicate it properly. We want to make sure any updates we send are not too drastic and that we would be able to implement them before getting creators involved.

The Trust and Safety team is committed to creator-first policies

If you’re sensing a theme, it’s because there is one: ask any creator on the platform and they’ll have an opinion about what Patreon’s policies should be. Our team loves this aspect of their job as meeting, speaking, listening to, and debating with people from many different backgrounds (with so many varied values) keeps us grounded, and helps us check for any cognitive biases. When different voices have conversations about freedom of expression and nudity, or folks ask where the line between free speech and hate speech falls, we welcome an environment in which various experiences are brought to light. It’s in this discovery of differences that we’re able to ascertain if our policies are serving the majority of creators, which, ultimately is our goal.