As the Technical Director on the Trust & Safety team, bc Wong helps protect our community by developing tools, processes, and systems designed to minimize exposure to abusive content and behaviors. We spoke with bc to learn more about his important work on creating a safe and civil space for everyone on Roblox.
Describe your team’s role here at Roblox.
We build systems that identify abuse, both proactively and reactively (meaning after users report them), and take action on the content (removal) as well as the users who violate our community standards. We use a lot of machine learning and also leverage human moderators where we cannot automate yet.
How is your experience as Technical Director at Roblox different from other engineering leadership roles you’ve had?
My job as an individual contributor is similar to many others: help figure out the future state of product and engineering, rally the team towards it, and contribute to technical solutions that get us there. But what’s special at Roblox is the people. In addition to being talented, my teammates are passionate about our Trust & Safety mission. It’s invigorating to work with a team with such a strong sense of purpose and see our work translate into real world impact.
In fact, all of us care deeply about the community. Many of us who work here have been on Roblox for a long time—some even learned to code from Roblox—and we all want to build a more civil community. So, an interesting question for Trust & Safety is how to better leverage the whole company in our mission. That’s something we’re actively working on. Personally, I get to interact with many different teams, which is something I enjoy a lot.
What is one of the most interesting aspects about working on your team at Roblox?
In general, how to keep abuse off a platform is a constantly evolving challenge. We need to do a lot of research and experimentation as an industry. For Roblox, we also need to scale our solutions to support such a vast audience. For Roblox, the vast audience of our platform adds a twist to the problem. A social platform catering exclusively to adults could choose to simply kick out any users who exhibit inappropriate behavior, our solution needs to support a wide range of age groups. For instance, some users may not fully understand our community standards or they haven’t learned how to act responsibly online. There is an opportunity here—and almost a responsibility—to educate the next generation on how to become civil online citizens.
What are some of the more difficult problems you and your team are working on?
I’ll give two examples of problems with very different time scales. We play a cat-and-mouse game with people who abuse our platform. When they are able to exploit gaps in our detection methods, we come up with better and more systematic ways to catch them. The key here is to be systematic, to find invariants in how abusers behave. We’re largely succeeding. But our reaction time is not instantaneous yet. This intersection of analytics, data infrastructure, and product integration is a blast to work on.
At a much broader time scale, the function of safety needs to evolve as the Roblox community is becoming more diverse. A year ago, more than half of our users were under 13. Now more than half are over 13. How can we give our users more freedom and still keep the experience safe? Different teams across the company are collaboratively working on this, re-imagining key parts of the platform. This also ties into a point I made earlier, on how to better leverage the whole company in the Trust & Safety mission.
How has the work at Roblox challenged you?
I’ve been constantly learning since I joined about a year and half ago, which is a lot of fun. The Trust & Safety domain was new for me. So was machine learning. I actually shipped my first ML model at Roblox. Now I’m learning about our graphics rendering technology. The engineering side of Roblox has so many diverse technologies that I sometimes feel like an intern.
How does Roblox support you as a technical innovator?
What has been very helpful in guiding me is one of Roblox’s core values, “Take the Long View”. There is still lots of short-term tactical work to do, but taking the long view challenges me to understand and organize them in relation to the destination I want to get to. It also helps me see the bigger gaps that don’t show up in any tactical to-do list. For example, maybe we could be a lot more effective if we have an entirely new class of data analytics capability. Roblox gives me room to explore and test that out.
I’m also fortunate to have access to the entire Roblox brain trust to gather and validate ideas. There are deep domain experts in data science, machine learning, infrastructure, networking, compilers, graphics, and more. I’ve picked their brains on one thing or another. Sometimes when they have ideas related to safety, they reach out to the team. Everyone I’ve met at Roblox (and I joined during the pandemic) is extremely nice, helpful, and generous with their time. This cross pollination of ideas, across such a diverse group, is one of the things I love most about Roblox.
Interested in joining the Trust & Safety team at Roblox? We’re always looking for new talent, so check us out at corp.roblox.com/careers and see if there’s a role that’s right for you.