Shop Etsy

A Closer Look Into Marketplace Integrity

Sep 17, 2012

by juliankwong

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Editor’s note: Julian Wong has left Etsy for his next venture. Sorry to see you go, Julian! Feel free to contact Corinne Pavlovic, the current Group Manager of Trust and Safety, via convo at iamcorinne.

My name is Julian, a.k.a. “the MITS guy,” and I lead the Marketplace Integrity and Trust & Safety Team (MITS) at Etsy. We ensure that all of the shops and items listed on Etsy meet our policies, and that buyers and sellers treat one another with respect. Previously, I worked at Google building and managing a team that prevented abuse and fraud on Google’s ad platform. I also spent time running my own startup company and trading equities where I learned a lot about managing risk and dealing with abuses in various marketplaces.

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I have fond memories of my father taking me to art class every Saturday morning at Pratt Institute. I enjoyed painting, drawing, and sketching, but most of all hearing other students talk about their finished pieces. I understand how much you care about your work and I’m committed to maintaining our standards for the marketplace where you sell.

It’s been about 7 months since our last update on marketplace integrity and we’ve been busy behind the scenes. Since our post in February:

  • The MITS team has added 10 new faces to our staff;
  • On average we are reviewing your reports under 24 hours and 35% faster;
  • Our internal detection system, SCRAM (Systems for Catching Resellers and Abusers of the Marketplace), is automatically preventing 20% more policy violators from re-listing;
  • SCRAM is identifying 30% more accounts for review by the MITS team.

Today, SCRAM analyzes over 60 different indicators to identify accounts that are problematic and potentially abusing marketplace policies. We also have a dedicated community who watches over our marketplace by reporting suspicious listings and shops based on what they see. The number of shops you have reported to us for review have remained steady and we appreciate your help. Keep the reports coming!

I recognize that it might feel frustrating to see that some reported items are not removed from the site, or to not have more visibility into our process. Therefore, I would like to break down what we do when we come across shops that we find might be in violation of our policies.

Think of our reviews as similar to how a jury makes a decision after hearing, reviewing, and understanding the entire body of evidence. We don’t take actions based purely on community outcry, otherwise we would be operating based on speculation. That would lead to decisions which would not be good for the community in the long-term.

There’s a common misconception that seeing multiple shops with the same or similar item means they are reselling. As sellers, you keep aware of trends and popular items. As buyers’ appetites for these items increase so do the number of sellers that create these items to satisfy demand. Therefore, it’s not uncommon to find multiple sellers who have access to the same supplies and skills competing to make the same items for buyers.

After you report a listing or a shop, that report is placed into a review queue (think of your inbox for emails). Your reports, along with shops and listings we identify through our internal detection systems, are prioritized and reviewed by the MITS team. We review our internal signals and gather data. Often we find after reviewing a flag that there is no need for further inquiry because the shop or listing is compliant. If not, we gather more information by asking sellers:

  • To name each person and detail his/her role in the shop
  • To describe the materials and equipment they use to make their items
  • To outline in detail how they make the item(s)
  • To show pictures of the raw materials used
  • To show step-by-step photographs of their handmade process

Through these conversations, we learn a lot. In many cases, our questions are answered after witnessing the detailed photo and/or video documentation that they provide us. In the last 6 months alone, over a thousand sellers have provided us with an in-depth view of their shop operations. Here is an example from a seller who makes a type of necklace that members have reported. In this case, she has demonstrated her process thoroughly and we’re sharing excerpts with her permission. [Note: We’ve blurred her shop and personal name in the photos for her privacy.]

The boy who grew up in Brooklyn and went to art school every weekend is still here. I want to see the stories behind your shops and hear your concerns. Thank you for your time reading this long post. Please join me in the Forums if you have questions. While I may not be able to respond to every convo I receive, I promise that the team and I will always follow up on what we need to do.