Content moderation is the process of screening and monitoring user-generated content online. To provide a safe environment for both users and brands, platforms must moderate content to ensure that it falls within pre-established guidelines of acceptable behavior that are specific to the platform and its audience.
When a platform moderates content, acceptable user-generated content (UGC) can be created and shared with other users. Inappropriate, toxic, or banned behaviors can be prevented, blocked in real-time, or removed after the fact, depending on the content moderation tools and procedures the platform has in place.
The definition of acceptable and unacceptable behavior is unique to each platform. Platforms may fall within different industries, like dating, gaming, social networks, and marketplaces, and each has its own set of users with different needs, sensitivities, and expectations. However, in general, behaviors like these are considered toxic regardless of platform:
Priorities will also vary between platforms. A dating platform may be more concerned with underage users or sex solicitation than a marketplace, and a marketplace may be more concerned with illegal drug and weapons sales than a gaming platform. To some degree, though, all online platforms must ensure that toxic behaviors are minimized to provide a safe, inclusive environment for users.
The user-generated content presented within a platform will directly influence user experience. If the content is moderated well, and users have a safe experience while encountering the kinds of content they expect from a platform, they will be more likely to stick around. But any deviation from these expectations will negatively affect the user experience, ultimately causing churn, damage to the brand reputation, and loss of revenue. Fortunately, platforms have plenty of reasons to invest in effective content moderation tools.
Platforms can foster a welcoming, inclusive community by preventing toxic behavior like harassment, cyberbullying, hate speech, spam, and much more. Help users avoid negative or traumatizing experiences online with thoughtful and consistently enforced content moderation policies and procedures.
Safe, inclusive, and engaged communities are not born. They are deliberately made and maintained by invested community members and passionate Trust & Safety professionals. Platforms grow and thrive when they can provide a great user experience, free of toxicity. Content moderation helps to reduce the churn rate and generates more revenue with less spend.
The experience that people have on a platform impacts brand perception. This is true not only of the platform’s reputation but also for the brands who appear in ads within the platform. Because consumers may view ads placed next to negative content as an intentional endorsement, content moderation is critical to protect advertisers. Research shows that purchase intent is significantly stifled and consumers are less likely to associate with a brand when it is displayed next to unsafe or brand-adverse content.1
Content moderation can give a platform a deeper understanding of its customer base by providing data for analysis. This can then be used to identify trends and provide actionable insight – which can be used to improve marketing, advertising, branding and messaging, and refine content moderation processes even further.
Managing the extreme volume of content that is created every day – every minute – is too large a job for a content moderation team to complete in real-time. As a result, many platforms are exploring automated and AI-powered tools and relying on users to file complaints about banned behaviors online.
Every minute, web users:
A solution that works for the written word may not be effective at monitoring video, voice, and live chat in real-time. Platforms should seek tools that can moderate user-generated content across multiple formats.
From our blog: Best Practices for Voice Chat Moderation
User-generated content can have a drastically different meaning when analyzed across separate situations. For example, on gaming platforms, there is a tradition of ‘trash talk’ – users communicating and giving each other a hard time to drive competition. However, the same comment on a dating app could be viewed as harassment or misogyny. Context is critical.
Sifting through the illegal, offensive, and graphic content on behalf of platforms can cause severe mental distress to the employees that do it. Content moderators often suffer from anxiety, stress, even PTSD as a result of their jobs. As a result, high turnover rates plague these roles that are meant to be entryways into a new career.
From our blog: Protecting the Mental Health of Content Moderators
Solutions commonly in use include keyword or RegEx (Regular Expression) filters, which block words or expressions that are related to banned behaviors. However, because these filters have no way to interpret the context of a comment, it can result in the accidental elimination of safe content.
For example, a virtual paleontology conference used a filter to moderate content in real-time, but accidentally eliminated content that had terms commonly used by paleontologists, including pubic, bone, and stream. As one attendee stated, “Words like ‘bone,’ ‘pubic,’ and ‘stream’ are frankly ridiculous to ban in a field where we regularly find pubic bones in streams.”
From our blog: PSA: Stop Managing Keyword Lists
Finally, users that post content that is illegal, graphic, fraudulent, or banned constantly change their approach to evade detection. Human content moderators can adapt to new tactics, but it is very difficult for most automated solutions to keep up.
With pre-moderation, all user-submitted content is screened and approved before it goes live on the site, either by a person or an automated tool. Content can be published, rejected, or edited depending on how well it meets the guidelines established by the platform. On the plus side, this offers the highest possible level of control for the platform; however, it is expensive, it can be difficult to keep up with the level of UGC, and the delay caused by pre-moderation can negatively impact the user experience.
Post-moderation allows content to be published immediately and reviewed afterward, by a live team or a moderation solution. This offers users the gratification of immediacy, as they can see their posts go live as soon as they are submitted. However, it can be quite detrimental to the platform if offensive content makes its way through and is viewed by users before being removed.
A reactive moderation solution involves content moderators becoming involved when a user flags content or files a complaint according to community guidelines. This is more cost-effective, as it only brings in valuable human efforts to address the content that is severe enough to generate a reaction in another user. However, it is also inefficient and offers a platform very little control over the content on the site.
When a platform can moderate user-generated content in real-time, it avoids each of the pitfalls that are associated with other moderation methods. Real-time analysis empowers platforms to proactively prevent toxic content and shape users’ experience in the moment. The user experiences no delays, toxic content is blocked, and human moderators are protected from severe content they might otherwise be exposed to.
Related reading: 3 Ways Contextual AI for Content Moderation Drives Revenue and Protects Communities
Choosing the right solution for a platform is very difficult, as content moderation requirements will vary depending on the type of platform and the target audience for the business. When deciding on a content moderation approach, be sure to consider:
Once you’ve decided what activities are tolerated on your platform, and to what degree, you can begin building a content moderation strategy. A combination of human moderators and automated solutions is generally the most flexible and efficient method of managing content moderation, particularly on platforms with a high volume of UGC.
Whether you are looking to safeguard your audiences, increase brand loyalty and user engagement, or maximize your moderators’ productivity, Spectrum Labs can help make your community a better, more inclusive place. Our contextual AI solution is available across multiple content types including text (chats, usernames, profile info), and voice. Our patent-pending multi-lingual approach means your non-English language users receive the same benefits as English language users.
Spectrum Labs provides contextual AI, automation, and services to help consumer brands recognize and respond to toxic behavior. The platform identifies 40+ behaviors across languages enabling Trust & Safety teams to deal with harmful issues in real-time. Spectrum Labs’ mission is to unite the power of data and community to rebuild trust in the Internet, making it a safer and more valuable place for all.
When it comes to moderating disruptive behaviors online, you shouldn’t have to do it alone. Spectrum’s AI models do the heavy lifting - identifying a wide range of behavior, across languages. Our engines are immediately deployable, highly customizable and continuously refined.
Whether you are looking to safeguard your audiences, increase brand loyalty and user engagement, or maximize moderator productivity, Spectrum Labs empowers you to recognize and respond to toxicity in real-time across languages.
Contact Spectrum Labs to learn more about how we can help make your community a safer place.