In this guide, you are going to learn a few things about Online Content Moderation and know whether it’s effective or not. And also, provide you with a few tips to do it right and effectively. Whilst, bearing in mind, as the internet continues to grow and evolve, so does the need for effective online content moderation by leading industry business content creation experts.
With millions of users and countless websites and platforms, it can be challenging to keep track of all the content that is posted online. By all means, content moderation is essential to ensuring that online communities remain safe and respectful places for people to interact. But, the big question is: How do we monitor online content without limiting free speech?
Alternately, how can we circumscribe the non-sociable aspects of online participation when we want to dig deeper into hot issues in engagement projects – issues that can draw on deeply held, emotional views? For sure, the job of a content moderator can be challenging, as they are exposed to a wide range of content, including violent, graphic, or disturbing material.
Content moderators must also adhere to strict guidelines and protocols to ensure that they do not violate any privacy or free speech laws. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of online content moderation and the challenges that content moderation teams face. We will also look at examples of successful content moderation and the steps to do things right.
An Introduction To Online Content Moderation
Online Content Moderation refers to the process of monitoring and reviewing user-generated content posted on websites, social media platforms, and other online channels. It ensures that the content posted is appropriate, and legal, and does not violate any community guidelines or laws. Content moderators are responsible for acting on the content before publication.
Such as flagging and removing any content that is harmful, offensive, or inappropriate. Given online engagement, content moderation is vital process for optimal business presence and reputation awareness. From the automated moderation of inappropriate content to sanctioning “grey areas” that require human intervention. Effective content moderation buoys robust.
As well as reflective – considerations on important public issues and facilitates participants’ willingness to get online and join in conversations that impact their lives. It also ensures a sense of accessibility and inclusion – uppermost to all online engagement. In other words, online content moderation, then, is a very crucial tool in making sure that the message is right.
A pragmatic set of guidelines, etiquette, and sanctions provides the best possible experience for participants to engage and explore issues. Furthermore, all these work to optimize the issue and listen to nuances within any given community context. While, at the same time, allowing everyone to have their say without fear, intimidation, or retribution.
Knowing The Main Moderation Vs Discretion Vs Censorship Roles
Toxicity isn’t just limited to specific games or types of people; 83% of adult gamers report facing toxic behavior online, across every demographic of players. But, the truth is that although anyone can be targeted, players that are part of minority groups, in particular, end up being the targets of online harassment more frequently.
According to ADL’s survey, 38% percent of women and 35% of LGBTQ+ players in the U.S. face targeted toxicity, based on their gender and sexual orientation. In addition, one-fourth to one-third of players who are black or African American (31%), Hispanic/Latinx (24%), or Asian-American (23%) face racial harassment online. This is quite jerking and heart-rendering!
Moderation is a platform operator saying “We don’t do that here”. Discretion is you saying “I won’t do that there”. Censorship is someone saying “You can’t do that anywhere” before or after threats of either violence or government intervention. Notably, regular Web Tech Experts and other web commenters have seen that paragraph show up often in recent months.
Q1: What Is Moderation?
Moderation is a platform operator saying “We don’t do that here”. All moderation decisions on an interactive web-based service boil down to “We don’t do that here”. When Twitter punishes a user over a tweet that breaks the rules, the admins have all but said that phrase. Twitter doesn’t care if you do “that” elsewhere. But it doesn’t want you doing “that” on Twitter.
What makes this different from censorship? Moderation lacks the force of law. Twitter can ban a user for breaking the rules, of course. But, it can’t stop that user from posting their speech elsewhere. Someone banned from Twitter for saying racial slurs can go to 4chan and still post those slurs. Moderation is a social consequence of showing signs of being a jerk!
Q2: What Is Discretion?
Discretion is you saying “I won’t do that there”. Some people might think of discretion as self-censorship. But, that phrasing focuses on the negative idea of chilled speech. We prefer to think of discretion as an act of personal restraint. As an example, consider the hypothetical case of Joe who doesn’t believe he hates gay people (though he doesn’t “agree with” homosexuality).
One night, he sees a pro-LGBT post on a Facebook group that rubs him the wrong way. He writes an angry reply to the post that includes a well-known anti-LGBT slur. But, before he posts it, he stops and thinks about whether his reply needs that slur. Then, he thinks through the possible fallout of posting the whole reply and is torn between pulling back or not…
After a few minutes of thinking, he deletes what he typed without posting it. What makes discretion different from censorship? Joe wouldn’t have faced any legal fallout for his reply if he had posted it – no one forced him to not post the reply. He made his choice based on whether he wanted to face negative social consequences – took responsibility for his actions with restraint.
Q3: What Is Censorship?
Censorship is someone saying “You can’t do that anywhere” before or after threats of either violence or government intervention. From lawsuits, arrests, fines, and jail time. Threats involving any of those four. Any one of those things sucks more than an industrial-strength vacuum cleaner. When they’re attached to speech, they become the tools of censors.
What sets censorship apart from moderation and discretion? Simply put, censorship has the rule of law behind it. Twitter can’t stop banned users from using the speech that got them banned on another service. But, a court that rules to suppress speech puts the weight of the law behind that ruling. It says, “Publish that speech anywhere and we’ll find you or toss you in jail.”
The same goes for police officers who punish people for legal speech that offends others. And people who threaten lawsuits and arrests qualify as wannabe censors at “best”. Such actions can, and often do, result in chilled speech. And chilled speech, unlike discretion, carries an air of legal consequences. A user feels emboldened to mock because they are anonymous.
But, if a target succeeds in his goal, that user would have less reason to keep posting. Targets would take the choice of discretion out of that user’s hands. (“I don’t want him to sue me again, so why risk it?”) To put it another way, discretion shows restraint, while censorship is when the govt restrains you – censorship can also happen without any actual legal threats.
How Online Content Moderation Helps In Internet Safety
At all costs, online content moderation is essential to maintaining a safe and respectful online environment. Without content moderation, online communities can quickly become overrun with hate speech, harassment, and other harmful content. This can lead to a toxic environment that drives users away and damages the reputation of the platform or website.
Content moderation is also critical to protecting vulnerable users, such as children and victims of cyberbullying or harassment. It ensures that they are not exposed to harmful or inappropriate content and can participate in online communities safely. But, who are the key players in content moderation? Well, trust and safety experts are critical players in content moderation.
For one thing, they are responsible for developing and implementing content moderation policies and procedures, training content moderators, and ensuring that the platform or website is compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. In addition, they must also stay up to date with the latest trends and threats in online content moderation.
Not forgetting, they must still constantly adapt their policies and procedures — to address new challenges and ensure that their platform or website is a safe and respectful place for users. Reckless use of the word “censorship” by public officials, in discussing privately-owned platforms’ content moderation steps, conflates the unique meaning of these very distinct concepts.
Censorship, which is the suppression or prohibition of speech or other communications, can sometimes cause real harm to marginalized communities. As well as anyone else holding and expressing a minority viewpoint. Content moderation, on the other hand, empowers private business actors to establish community guidelines for their contextual websites.
In addition, the demand that users seek to express their viewpoints is consistent with that particular community’s expectations of discourse. Whilst, yielding tangible benefits such as flagging harmful misinformation, curbing hate speech, protecting public safety, eliminating obscenity, and the like. Put another way, some content moderation includes censorship.
On the contrary, other forms (fact-checking for example) are not censorship since they do not suppress or prohibit the original speech. Conflating the two ideas in order to allow for the spread of disinformation or hate speech is disingenuous and dangerous. Bearing in mind, that it may feel cathartic for some policymakers to rail against companies alleging censorship.
The Main Online Content Moderation Types And Their Effectiveness
A few short years ago, the majority of game developers focused on creating experiences for individual players. But today, games are primarily social experiences, with features designed first and foremost to enable connecting, making friends, and finding a sense of community. While this new form of community has become a valuable part of many players’ worlds.
Whilst, bringing them closer to others with similar hobbies and interests, it also has a dark side – more connectedness also means that harmful behavior – cyberbullying, verbal abuse, and general toxicity – has become more prevalent in gaming. A 2020 study revealed just how common this toxicity has become; 65% of surveyed players had experienced severe harassment.
Including physical threats, stalking, and sustained harassment. But, it turns out that only a small percentage of players are actually the cause of this toxic behavior. Meaning, that gamers need to begin stepping up their initiatives related to flagging and banning all those potential instigators. And, as a result, the overall gameplay will become a safer and more inclusive place.
The dire need of content moderators is that they are responsible for all User-Generated Content (UGC) that is submitted to any given online application or even website-based platform (mostly, social media). The content moderator’s job is to make sure that items are placed in the right category, are free from scams, don’t include any illegal items, etc.
There are several online content moderation types, including but not limited to reactive, proactive, and automated moderation. Coupled with machine learning algorithms to help flag and remove inappropriate content automatically, each type of moderation has its advantages and disadvantages. With that in mind, let’s try to elaborate much further on each of them:
Technically, Reactive Moderation involves responding to content that has already been posted and reported by users. Thus, it can be effective in removing harmful content once it has been reported, but it may not catch all harmful content. One downside is that reactive moderation can be time-consuming and may not catch all harmful content, while proactive moderation can be expensive and may result in false positives.
In the same fashion, Proactive Moderation involves actively monitoring and flagging potentially harmful content before it is posted. Automated moderation uses artificial intelligence. This means, that it can be more effective in preventing harmful content from being posted. But, its notable downside is that it can be quite expensive to integrate and may result in false positives.
Automated Moderation is becoming increasingly popular, and it can be effective in flagging and removing harmful content quickly. As a matter of fact, automated moderation is becoming increasingly popular, but it is not foolproof and can sometimes flag content that is not harmful. Or rather, miss out on harmful content that is not caught by the algorithms.
Be that as it may, we know that you may ask: How effective is online content moderation? Well, the effectiveness of online content moderation varies depending on the platform or website and the type of moderation used. Overall, online content moderation is an effective process for maintaining a safe and respectful online environment.
But, it requires a combination of reactive, proactive, and automated moderation to be truly effective. For instance, proactive voice moderation is a relatively new tactic for combatting the most common type of toxic behavior. One thing is for sure, it’s often focused on catching offenses as they happen in real-time. But, overreliance on automated methods is killing it!
Some Challenges That Even Expert Content Moderation Teams Do Face
Content moderators face several challenges that can make their job difficult. One of the biggest challenges is the sheer volume of content that is posted online every day. Content moderators must review and monitor thousands of posts, comments, and messages each day, which can be overwhelming. In fact, the video below is in regard to the horrors of Facebook moderators.
Another challenge is the emotional toll that content moderation can take on moderators. Content moderators are exposed to a wide range of content, including violent, graphic, or disturbing material. This can take a toll on their mental health.
As well as the overall well-being and some may even suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or burnout. Still, a majority of content moderation teams are expected to navigate complex legal and regulatory frameworks — to ensure that they are compliant with all relevant laws and regulations. Suffice it to say, this can be quite time-consuming and expensive.
Notwithstanding, failure to comply can result in legal and reputational damage. What’s more, applications and website platforms must continue to adapt to new challenges and threats. Specifically, to ensure that their content moderation practices are effective, transparent, and accountable. Fortunately, there is some light at the end of the tunnel…
The Topmost Successful Examples That We Can Consider
For your information, there are several examples of successful content moderation that we can borrow some ideas from. Including the likes of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Perse, these platforms use a combination of reactive, proactive, and automated moderation to ensure that their communities remain safe and respectful places for users.
But, there are still other examples of successful content moderation — an online marketplace like eBay and Amazon — that use automated moderation to flag and remove counterfeit or illegal items. Online dating platforms like Match.com and eHarmony also use content moderation to ensure that their users are not exposed to harmful or inappropriate content.
Of course, software selection is crucial — integrating online engagement and moderation shapes our experience of digital deliberation. Deliberation is a social process, potentially involving many people — with participants being exposed to information that is both broad and deep. Given this fact, ‘emotional connection’ is a necessity to spark participation.
Therefore, both the ‘design’ and ‘management’ aspects of the space are critically important elements in the online content moderation process. Unlike monologue or debate, dialogue is what happens when participants start to read and respond to each other’s comments. They ask questions and build on ideas — they may also challenge arguments or assertions.
In reality, they do so to better understand the rationale or underlying belief, or background story. There is mutual respect, and there is a focus on “solutioneering”. On that note, it’s good to note a few things so as to do moderation right.
The Steps To Integrate Moderation And Censorship Effectively
Some people refer to moderation decisions that affect them as “censorship” because they feel they’ve been censored. Maybe they think a platform punished them for holding certain political views. Maybe they think a platform punished them for bigoted reasons. Whatever the reason, those people feel that losing their spot on the platform is censorship.
But, they’re not angry about losing their right to speak. (Twitter, Facebook, etc. can’t take that away from them, anyway.) A platform the size of Twitter or Facebook comes with a built-in potential audience of millions. Anyone banned from Twitter loses the ability to reach that audience. For some people, such a loss can feel like censorship, even though it isn’t, right?
No one has the right to an audience. No one has the right to make someone listen. But entitled people think they do have those rights, and any “violation” of those “rights” is “censorship”. On the other hand, marginalized creators who lose that platform may be dealt a huge blow to the reach of their content. What if they feel like they were punished in some way for bullshit reasons?
Well, in that case, their feeling “censored” holds far more validity. In the strictest of legal senses, what Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. do when they moderate speech on their platforms isn’t censorship. But, when it comes to morals and ethics, well, everyone has an opinion. That said, below are a few simple steps to help you integrate a working moderation plan.
Step #1: Acceptable behavior moderation
The great part of content moderation is the mission behind it. The Internet sometimes could seem like a big and unsafe place where scammers are the rulers. In a real sense, as professional consulting online content moderators, we love this job because we get to make the world a better place — by blocking content that’s not supposed to be seen or found online.
Of course, yes! It’s a blessing to be part of a mission where we can help others and feel good about what we do. Besides, it makes you feel important and adds that undercover aspect of a 007 agent. However, it’s not a walk in the park! You must have a clear set of rules that bound acceptable behavior for user-generated contributions. These may vary from project to project.
It may include references to:
- posting personal information,
- naming organizational staff, particularly in a negative light,
- defamatory content,
- acceptable language,
- bullying, hectoring and insulting,
- external links,
- advertising, and
- comments on moderation policies and processes.
Step #2: Breaching moderation
Speed and accuracy could be parallel, but you need to be focused and keep your eyes on the important part of a listing. Only a bit of information in a listing can be very revealing and tell you what your next step should be. On top of that, it’s crucial to stay updated on the latest fraud trends to not fall into any traps.
Always remember, some listings and users may appear very innocent, yes, but when it comes to breaching moderation, it’s important to take each listing seriously. And also, it’s always better to slow down a bit before moving on to the next listing. You must also have a clear set of sanctions for breaching the moderation rules at any time in the line of your work.
- content removal,
- content editing,
- temporary suspension of access privileges, and
- permanent blocking of access privileges.
Step #3: Etiquette and post-hoc moderation
You should consider including a set of guidelines for appropriate etiquette in the context of your particular project. These are, in the main, to promote positive behaviors, rather than to control poor behaviors, and may include broader instructions. Such instructions may include: “be respectful”, and specific education like, “avoid CAPS LOCK”.
What about post-hoc moderation? Well, dialogue works best when it is allowed to flow, so you must find a way to use “post-hoc” moderation. That is, moderation AFTER the comment (or content) has been allowed to go live on the website. The most important personal qualities needed to become a good etiquette content moderator are patience, integrity, and curiosity.
- Patience: Moderating content is not always easy and sometimes it can be challenging to maintain a high pace while not jeopardizing accuracy. When faced with factors that might slow you down, it’s necessary to stay patient and not get distracted.
- Integrity: It’s all about work ethic, and staying true to who you are and what you do. Always remember why you are moderating content, and don’t lose track of the final objective.
- Curiosity: As a content moderator, you’re guaranteed to stumble onto items you didn’t even know existed. It’s important to stay curious and research the items to ensure they’re in the right category or should be refused – if they don’t meet the platform’s rules and guidelines.
Step #4: Protocols around comments moderation
Depending on the perceived “risk” of user-generated content egregiously breaching the site rules, you will need to tighten or loosen the protocols around the “comment review period”. Very low-risk issues and groups may require almost no moderation. Whereas, on the other side, highly emotional and politically contested issues may require real-time 24/7 human oversight.
The most common type of items we may refuse as a protocol must be weapons – any kind of weapons. Some users try to make them seem harmless, but they’re not. It’s important to look at the listing images, and if the weapon is not exposed in the image, we’ll simply gather more information about the item. Usually, users who want to sell weapons try to hide them.
In particular, by not using images and being very short in their descriptions (sometimes no description at all). It’s our task, as content moderators, to collect more details and refuse the item if it turns out to be a weapon. Even if it’s a soft air gun or used for sports. As well as focusing on war-related, immoral, self-centered, and any other societal vice-based comments.
Step #5: Human filters and automated moderation
It’s, important to realize, that at its core, a content moderator ensures that the content on a given website or service meets the company’s standards and guidelines. This can involve anything from reviewing and removing offensive or inappropriate content to monitoring user behavior and flagging potential rule violations. Whilst, maintaining a safe and respectful environment.
Remarkably, unlike automated bots, human-based content moderators play an important role in keeping online spaces safe and welcoming for all users. But, your moderation should include BOTH automated filtering AND human systems. Automated filters are good at picking up black-listed words and SPAM, they are incapable of picking up other poor behaviors.
Next, it’s also good to consider some ‘Back up’ processes. Your moderation system should also include “backup” processes, such as “community flagging.” Obviously, because your moderators may not be familiar with all of the nuances of the issues under consideration, and may not, therefore, pick up all of the issues.
As you can see, it’s likely to involve a combination of reactive, proactive, and automated moderation. And now, as the likes of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and other notable Algorithms continue to improve, we may see more platforms relying on automated moderation to flag and remove harmful content. Especially, in terms of blog content websites.
Equally, important, there may also be a shift towards more transparent and accountable content moderation. Meaning, that some if not all application platforms may be required to provide more information about their moderation policies and procedures. And as such, the target users may be given more control over the content they see and interact with.
In a nutshell, we can say that online content moderation is essential to maintaining a safe and respectful online environment. Not to mention, content moderators play a critical role in ensuring that harmful and inappropriate content is removed from websites and platforms. While content moderation can be challenging, it is necessary to protect vulnerable users.
As well as maintain the reputation of platforms and websites, and ensure that online communities remain safe and respectful places for people to interact. This means, that as the internet continues to evolve, content moderation will continue to be an essential practice. If you think there’s something else that we can add here, kindly share it in our comments section.