Come the 14th of February, everyone will be able to experience the product and engineering work that we’ve been earnestly completing over the past year. As you participate in Beta, you will see the evolving creativity of our bleeding edge engineering team.
At the same time, many of us in the company have been working very hard on matters that may be less obvious to anyone following the Voice story. Getting Voice to beta and beyond requires a collective effort from our people across the company, including Marketing, Finance, HR, Legal and Cybersecurity. In particular, we wanted to share with you some of the challenges and critical successes of our Legal & Compliance efforts needed to launch Voice successfully. The challenges of understanding and navigating the regulatory environment are exacerbated by the impact it has on the rest of the business: product features, rollout, user experience, content, terms of engagement, your security.
Launching any new venture involves putting in place numerous internal and external partnerships. We have needed to find multiple third-party providers and partners for all the typical software and services – from hosting infrastructure, to security tools, to graphic artists. To bring Voice to you and live up to the standards we’ve set for ourselves, we’ve had to put in place and maintain dozens of contracts (and counting). The volume of legal agreements will only increase as we launch in more countries and build additional functionality into the product. Negotiating and managing this complexity requires a significant effort.
Even more challenging is enabling Voice to be the truly global product it will inevitably be. This scope requires that we achieve legal compliance wherever we intend to make Voice available. We’ve already looked closely at all our key markets across the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia. Working closely with our product team, our legal team has taken steps to limit functionality where needed, but to also futureproof the platform so that we can quickly grant access to new territories as they become available to us.
Key to our success will be our speed and agility as an organization. In addition to moving nimbly to serve our users, we must react to dynamic external forces outside of our control. As many of you know, the regulatory environments applicable to Voice (media, blockchain and financial services) are all evolving quickly and unevenly around the world. These rules and standards also have a big impact on driving the timetable for Voice’s international rollout and what features you can enjoy during the Beta phase and subsequently.
For Beta and in our future planning, we’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that the Voice token will be fully compliant with US securities law. In addition to engaging with the SEC, we have built policies and systems to comply with OFAC and AML requirements. As we add functionality and utility to Voice tokens post-Beta, we’re going to require licenses in most US states individually. We have been working hard on securing these licenses. Also, with the internationalization of Voice, we will have to meet various regulatory requirements in countries across the world, which is especially challenging when we want to offer a uniform experience to everyone. As we blaze a new trail through the media world, we have enlisted the support of some of the best minds and practitioners in the world, totaling over 100 legal professionals alone.
Our task is to follow the law, but still stay true to our guiding principle – Voice must be a place for an open and authentic exchange of ideas.
Voice being a media platform means we’re also grappling with the often-thorny question of content moderation. It’s a legal topic where both the lawyers and the product champions have a lot to say and there are many valid points to consider. It seems that every day, somewhere in the world, there is a new law passed or proposed that is intended to dictate how media moderates content. We’re keeping abreast of all these developments, knowing that we have to face them head-on. Our task is to follow the law, but still stay true to our guiding principle – Voice must be a place for an open and authentic exchange of ideas. With verified identity for Voice users, we hope to require far less content moderation than other platforms. Instead, we hope to focus our efforts to ensure the rigor of our identity checks whilst not overly burdening our users.
It should also come as no surprise that we have to make sure Voice meets all of the legal requirements relating to protection of personal data. This responsibility requires putting in place things like data protection officers, a raft of data and privacy policies, compliance checks and extensive cybersecurity measures.
While it can be challenging and time consuming, meeting our legal obligations is essential to us as an organization and, as noted above, both the blockchain and media legal worlds are still maturing – and will be for years to come. Making the right judgments about how to comply with rules that are in a state of flux requires constant engagement with leaders across our organization, regular advice from our external legal advisors and, sometimes, direct discussion with regulators.
So that’s a little (or a lot) about what our Legal & Compliance team have been up to, but it’s just a small piece of the efforts being put in by people across Block.one to enable our vision for Voice to come to fruition. We’re extremely grateful to all the people working behind the scenes and around the clock to make this all possible. We are very excited to share what we’ve built with you.