Inside Change with Jimin Lee
Why did this type of work interest you and how did you get started?
“I’ve never heard of the term ‘human rights’ when I was growing up in my country,” said one of the North Korean defector students I’ve had a chance to work with in South Korea. I was a mere college student at that time, full of ambition to change the world in marginalized places, and I had not known fully what it is like to work with people who never had freedom and how to explain human rights. Since then I’ve been drawn to kinds of work that help people feel empowered to live with their fundamental rights.
Before I landed at Change, I’ve worked with international refugees at the International Rescue Committee, picking them up from the Oakland airport to find them their first job in the US. I’ve worked with North Korean defectors in South Korea for their settlement in the South. I’ve covered stories about them at CBS News and Voice of America. I’ve explored the intersection of human rights and technology academically while assisting international campaigns at different UN Women and UN Headquarters in New York City, developing different global campaign strategies. After I returned to California, I stepped into my first role in content policy at Facebook and I was exposed to all kinds of nefarious actors using the platform for hateful purposes. I didn’t quite make the connection with what I did before the military of Myanmar forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to leave the country of Bangladesh due to the viral fake news post. Thousands of them were murdered and raped, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. It blew my mind how the platform power can threaten fundamental human rights in some vulnerable communities in the world, and that made me stay with this area of work.
What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?
“Content moderation is hard…because it is resource intensive and relentless; because it requires making difficult and often untenable distinctions; because it is wholly unclear what the standards should be; and because one failure can incur enough public outrage to overshadow a million quiet successes.”–Tarleton Gillespie, Custodians of the Internet (2018)
Change.org is an open platform, and we have more than 350 million users. The chances for nefarious actors to use our platform are always there. As you can imagine, working for an open platform is the most rewarding and yet challenging part of my job. It is the most satisfying when I get to be the guardian of freedom of expression for users on the platform and see the actual changes the campaigns I review make daily. However, it is challenging to scale the operation along with high volume of content and be subject to a constant set of tweaks and edits and new writes of our policies and enforcement flows, especially when there’s a crisis.
What are the skills that are most important for a position in this field?
I’ve come to appreciate the range of skills that this position requires. There’s never a same day in this role; I am talking to our Data Protection Officer about our cookie compliance in one call, and I am talking to a police officer about violent content I’ve come across on our platform on another. I am putting slides together to advocate for more resources on my team, and investigating user history. I think having the skills to know what is important and urgent is really valuable.
One last skill I’ve come to appreciate the most last year is knowing when to get up and take a break! I often tell my team that this is not a sprint but a marathon.
What is your mantra for dealing with difficult challenges?
I think the most important thing I try to do is to focus on the next action step and be present (making sure I make time to eat and sleep well and pet my kitten :). Ironically, when in difficult challenges, things get clearer. In a way, difficult challenges help me operate lean and focused; sometimes even when dealing with not-so-challenging things, I seek challenges for clarity.
How do you think your identity has impacted your professional experiences?
There are multiple labels that identify me; female, Asian, immigrant, introvert, Christian, etc. These identifications were often considered voiceless and powerless at one point in our history, and I am committed to change that for myself and for the generations to come. I am an advocate for people who share the same challenges and experiences that I do because of what identifies them. In order to do more of that advocacy work, I’ve been serving on our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (DEI) and the Asian Pacific Islanders group at Change.org and try to push DEI values at the forefront of our business.
When you’re not at work, what do you spend your free time doing?
I love everything that makes me move away from the screens when I am not working; biking, cleaning (yes!), cooking, playing instruments, working out, etc. I used to be part of the Berkeley Dance group, and I can’t wait to bring dancing back into my life! During COVID-19 lockdown, I’ve learned to entertain myself and yet be productive at the same time – doing urban kick-boxing via Zoom while watching “How to cut your own hair” on YouTube or taking a Master Class with Alice Waters watching her cooking. When I am completely exhausted at the end of the day, I sit down to do watercolor painting with the Bossa Nova playlist or watch the Crown on Netflix.