Trust and Safety: An Interview with Joseph Asaro, Head of Trust and Safety
Fair competition is the core of the Skillz experience. Our team built the platform with strong safeguards at top of mind so you can play with confidence.
Trust and fairness are at the heart of the success of any competitive system, so the Skillz team leverages the latest tools, data science and machine learning to ensure fair play in all of our games and to protect against frauds and cheats.
Skillz’ co-founders used their experience developing digital payments to design the system so that every dollar deposited into the Skillz platform is safe and secure. We have over 50 issued and pending patents and our technology is built to fairly match players of equal skill across any platform where our games are played.
The Skillz editorial team recently sat down with Joseph Asaro, Head of Trust and Safety at Skillz, who oversees the gaming platform’s Trust and Safety process. Joseph and his team keep Skillz players safe from bad actors who might try to abuse the system.
Q: How does Skillz approach trust and safety on its platform?
A: At our core, Skillz is built on fairness because you can’t have a skill-based gaming competition if the system isn’t fair. Our most important task is making sure all our matches are fair and free of exploitation.
Q: What tools and techniques does Skillz use to prevent abuse on the platform?
A: Skillz collects, sifts through, and analyzes thousands of gameplay data points, allowing us to clearly identify suspicious behavior and take action quickly. After nearly a decade in operations, we have a good understanding of how players normally interact with our games and our system. It’s hard work for even the biggest internet platforms, but we’ve been tracking bad actors and learning from their behaviors since day one, and we are always getting better at spotting unusual or inappropriate behavior when it occurs. In addition to our internal tools, our team also uses third party vendors to vet any irregularities. We target and identify issues ranging from external threats such as credit card fraud, to internal ones like matchmaking manipulation or unfair collusion between users. We have a smart and committed team that is dedicated to the fairness and integrity of our platform, and we continue to recruit top talent to constantly improve our systems.
Q: How do you deal with bad actors on the system?
A: We address each issue with a framework of infractions, ensuring our response is appropriate to each case. For example, we may issue a warning for players who happened to use the pause function to gain an unfair advantage during a match or two. Repeat offenders or players engaging in more nefarious behavior such as sandbagging, matchmaking manipulation, or attempting to tamper with software will face more serious consequences, including a possible ban from the platform or even legal action. On the flip side, we also ensure that any funds lost by players to known cheaters are fully refunded.
Q: What sort of processes do you have in place to ensure gameplay integrity?
A: One unique method Skillz utilizes is a set of playtest verifications. If we see significant or unexpected change in a player’s behavior, we may ask that player to participate in a playtest confirmation to verify no one else is using their account or trying to otherwise ‘game’ the system. In other circumstances, a Skillz representative may even visit one of our top players to do a final playtest before officially presenting a major prize.
Q: Can you share an example when Skillz had to confront bad actors on the system?
A: We caught an incident in one of our games recently where a group of players were colluding to give themselves advantages in competitive leagues. Their behavior was subtle but we studied data and gameplay over a long period of time to observe patterns and shifts in play. We also conducted player interviews on the system to get more insights. When our investigation was complete, we removed the bad actors from the system and handed the matter over to our legal team. Skillz is a highly competitive environment and there are real-world repercussions for people who try to exploit our system. We have an established subpoena process and cooperate with law enforcement agencies to support the investigation and prosecution of fraud.
Q: What processes have been improved in order to increase trust and safety?
A: We’re continuing to add more tools and flags to better observe player behavior across the system, collaborating with our analytics teams to iterate. This makes our tools more effective, giving us more data with which to catch cheaters. Constantly improving our payment systems is also a priority. We also brought on board a highly-skilled data product manager, and an experienced head of Trust and Safety to help up-level our systems.
Q: What does the future of trust and safety look like for Skillz?
A: We’re constantly growing our Trust and Safety team, and developing more seamless and sophisticated tools and resources. The way I see it, if we’re doing our jobs well, players will never have to interact with our Trust and Safety team. Our mission is to ensure that playing on Skillz is always fun and fair, and every competitor has an equal chance to embrace their inner champion.