Content Moderation refers to the practice of flagging user-generated submissions based on a set of guidelines in order to determine whether the submission can be used or not in the related media. These rules decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t to promote the generation of content that falls within its conditions. This process represents the importance of curbing the output of inappropriate content which could harm the involved viewers. Unacceptable content is always removed based on their offensiveness, inappropriateness, or their lack of usability.
Why do we need content moderation?
In an era in which information online has the potential to cause havoc and influence young minds, there is a need to moderate the content which can be accessed by people belonging to a range of age-groups. For example, online communities which are commonly used by children need to be constantly monitored for suspicious and dangerous activities such as bullying, sexual grooming behavior, abusive language, etc. When content isn’t moderated carefully and effectively, the risk of the platform turning into a breeding ground for the content which falls outside the community’s guidelines increases.
Content moderation comes with a lot of benefits such as:
- Protection of the brand and its users
Having a team of content moderators allows the brand’s reputation to remain intact even if users upload undesirable content. It also protects the users from being the victims of content which could be termed abusive or inappropriate.
- Understanding of viewers/users
Pattern recognition is a common advantage of content moderation. This can be used by the content moderators to understand the type of users which access the platform they are governing. Promotions can be planned accordingly and marketing campaigns can be created based on such recognizable patterns and statistics.
- Increase of traffic and search engine rankings
Content generated by the community can help to fuel traffic because users would use other internet media to direct their potential audience to their online content. When such content is moderated, it attracts more traffic because it allows users to understand the type of content which they can expect on the platform/website. This can provide a big boost to the platform’s influence over internet users. Also, search engines thrive on this because of increased user interaction.
How do content moderation systems work?
Content moderation can work in a variety of methods and each of them holds their pros and cons. Based on the characteristics of the community, the content can be moderated in the following ways:
In this type of moderation, the users first upload their content after which a screening process takes place. Only once the content passes the platform’s guidelines is it allowed to be made public. This method allows the final public upload to be free from anything that’s undesirable or which could be deemed offensive by a majority of viewers.
The problem with pre-moderation is the fact that users could be left unsatisfied because it delays their content from going public. Another disadvantage is the high cost of operation involved in maintaining a team of moderators dedicated to ensuring top quality public content. If the number of user submissions increases, the workload of the moderators also increases and that could stall a significant portion of the content from going public.
If the quality of the content cannot be compromised under any circumstances, this method of moderation is extremely effective.
This moderation technique is extremely useful when instant uploading and a quicker pace of public content generation is important. Content by the user will be displayed on the platform immediately after it is created, but it would still be screened by a content moderator after which it would either be allowed to remain or removed.
This method has the advantage of promoting real-time content and active conversations. Most people prefer their content online as soon as possible and post moderation allows this. In addition to this, any content which is inconsistent with the guidelines can be removed in a timely manner.
The flaws and disadvantages of this method include legal obligations of the website operator and difficulties for moderators to keep up with all the user content which has been uploaded. The number of views a piece of content receives can have an impact on the platform and if the content strays away from the platform’s guidelines, it can prove to be costly. Considering the fact that such hurdles exist, the content moderation and review process should be completed within a quick time slot.
In this case, users get to flag and react to the content which is displayed to them. If the members deem the content to be offensive or undesirable, they can react accordingly to it. This makes the members of the community responsible for reporting the content which they come across. A report button is usually present next to any public piece of content and users can use this option to flag anything which falls outside the community’s guidelines.
This system is extremely effective when it aids a pre-moderation or a post-moderation setup. It allows the platform to identify inappropriate content which the community moderators might’ve missed out on. It also reduces the burden on community moderators and theoretically, it allows the platform to dodge any claims of their responsibility for the user-uploaded content.
On the other hand, this style of moderation may not make sense if the quality of the content is extremely crucial to the reputation of the company. Interestingly, certain countries have laws which legally protect platforms that encourage/adopt reactive moderation.
AI Content Moderation
Community moderators can take the help of artificial intelligence inspired content moderation as a tool to implement the guidelines of the platform. Automated moderation is commonly used to block the occurrences of banned words and phrases. IP bans can also be established using such a tool.
Current shortcomings of content moderation
Content moderators are bestowed with the important responsibility of cleaning up all content which represents the worst which humanity has to offer. A lot of user-generated content is extremely harmful to the general public (especially children) and due to this, content moderation becomes the process which protects every platform’s community. Here are some of the shortcomings experienced by modern content moderation:
- Content moderation comes with certain dangers such as continuously exposing content moderators to undesirable and inappropriate content. This can have a negative psychological impact but thankfully, companies have found a way to replace them with AI moderators. While this solves the earlier issue, it makes the moderation process more secretive.
- Content moderation presently has its fair share of inconsistencies. For example, an AI content moderation setup can detect nudity better than hate speech, while the public could argue that the latter has more significant consequences. Also, in most platforms, profiles of public figures tend to be given more leniency compared to everyday users.
- Content Moderation has been observed to have a disproportionately negative influence on members of marginalized communities. The rules surrounding what is offensive and what isn’t aren’t generally very clear on these platforms, and users can have their accounts banned temporarily or permanently if they are found to have indulged in such activity.
- Continuing from the last statement, the appeals process in most platforms is broken. Users might end up getting banned for actions they could rightfully justify and it could take a long period of time before the ban is revoked. This is a special area in which content moderation has failed or needs to improve.
While the topic of content moderation comes with its achievements and failures, it completely makes sense for companies and platforms to invest in this. If the content moderation process is implemented in a manner which is scalable, it can allow the platform to become the source of a large volume of information, generated by its users. Not only can the platform enjoy the opportunity to publish a lot of content, but it can also be moderated to ensure the protection of its users from malicious and undesirable content.