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Content Moderation and Why It Matters

Episode Summary

In today's episode, we're diving into the world of content moderation and why it's crucial for brands in the digital age. We'll explore the ins and outs of content moderation, from understanding its role in shaping online interactions to its importance for maintaining a clean and safe digital environment.

Episode Transcription

Hey there!

On the internet, anyone can contribute content. Users can go on any online platform to connect and share ideas, and businesses and brands can use it to reach a global audience and build communities around their products or services.

But because just about anyone can post online, it’s important for brands in particular to make sure that whatever gets posted on their accounts follows community standards. You’ll want to keep your online spaces safe, clean, and enjoyable for all users. That’s where content moderation comes in.

In today’s episode, we’ll talk about how content moderation plays a critical role in shaping digital interactions, from those on social media platforms to online forums.

Let’s start off by understanding what content moderation is.

Content moderation involves reviewing user-generated content before it can be published. Think of content moderators as bouncers at a club, who make sure that everyone’s safe and keeps anyone from ruining the party by checking everyone who goes inside.

Content moderation may include manually checking posts, replies, and other content that makes it onto the account. Take Reddit, for example. Reddit employs content moderators who go through posts in subreddits, checking for any harmful, misleading, or spam content.

Content moderating, like many other activities in the digital space, can also be done through automation. For instance, Discord has content moderating bots. Users can add them to their channels to automatically take down any messages that use specific curse words or particularly offensive phrases.

Now, what are some examples of content moderation?

First up, we have age restrictions. As the name suggests, this means limiting access to content based on the user's age. This is particularly important for content that may be inappropriate or harmful for certain age groups. Many social media sites require users to be 18 and above to create an account. Netflix, for example, has a Kids profile that will only play TV shows and movies intended for ages 12 and under. It won't allow access to account settings or Netflix mobile games.

Age restrictions are especially important in limiting access to R-18 content. Content moderators can take down explicit or mature content for the benefit of users below the age of 18 or for users who choose not to see them. 

The most familiar to us, aside from the age barricades, is of course language moderation. This focuses on filtering out inappropriate or offensive language from user-generated content to maintain a respectful and inclusive online environment. You may see this when watching gaming livestreams—when you start seeing little asterisks in the chat, you’re seeing content moderation in action hiding some colorful language!

Content moderation also cracks down on hate speech or offensive content. Hate speech refers to content that promotes discrimination, bigotry, or violence against individuals or groups based on factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. X immediately suspends accounts that violate community rules and Meta imposes different restrictions on users who post hate speech depending on the severity of the content.

Next, let’s talk about the types of content that require moderation.

First, we have text. Whether it's a reply to a post on X, a comment on a blog post, or a message in a group chat, text-based content can quickly become breeding grounds for harassment, hate speech, and misinformation. Content moderation makes sure that these platforms remain spaces for constructive dialogue rather than avenues for toxicity.

Second: images. Thanks to visual-centric platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, images have become a staple of online communication. From memes to infographics, images convey information and emotions in a way that words sometimes can't.

But images can also be used to spread graphic or inappropriate content. Moderation helps filter out images that may be triggering or offensive, maintaining a safe and respectful online environment.

Then, there are videos. It’s hard to get around these days without bringing up a video you’ve seen on YouTube, Tiktok, and Facebook Reels. To make sure everyone’s experiences on these video-sharing platforms remain clean and safe, content moderators should ensure the appropriateness of video content. From violent or explicit material to misinformation and harmful challenges, content moderation helps protect users from harmful or misleading content.

Last but not least, we have audio. With the popularity of podcasts, music streaming services, and voice-based platforms like Clubhouse, audio content has carved out its own niche in the digital landscape.

Whether it's podcasts, music, or live conversations, audio platforms can also harbor content that violates community guidelines or promotes harmful behavior. Content moderation ensures that audio content remains enjoyable and free from harmful influences.

Now, let's address the elephant in the room—the internet can often feel like the Wild West, with chaos lurking around every corner. From trolls and spammers to offensive content and misinformation, the online landscape can be a godless land, especially for brands trying to carve out their digital footprint. 

Why does content moderation matter for brands?

Imagine your brand as a storefront in a bustling city. Just like you wouldn't want graffiti or litter tarnishing your physical space, you don't want messy or harmful content sullying your digital presence.

That’s where content moderators come in. Whether it's removing offensive comments on social media or filtering out spam on your website, content moderation ensures that the digital space your brand occupies remains clean, safe, and enjoyable for everyone.

But it's not just about maintaining a tidy digital environment. Messy content doesn't just clutter up your online space; it can also tarnish your brand's image and reputation. In today's hyper-connected world, every interaction, every comment, every post reflects back on your brand. After all, in a world where perception is reality, maintaining a polished and professional image online is key to building trust and loyalty with your audience.

We’ve talked about what content moderation is and why it’s important for brands.

Now how exactly do businesses moderate content?

Content moderation can be done manually and with the use of automated systems.

The manual approach involves human content moderators who review and assess content with a discerning eye. These moderators bring judgment, context, and empathy to their decisions, ensuring that content aligns with community guidelines and standards.

Automation uses algorithms and bots powered by artificial intelligence to flag or even immediately take down posts or comments that violate guidelines. YouTube uses AI algorithms to go through millions of videos a day to identify and remove content that violates the platform's community guidelines. According to YouTube, AI is capable of removing videos violative of the policies even before they are viewed by a human moderator.

So, which should you pick? Human content moderation, or automated content moderation?
The quick answer: get a good mix of both.

The automated approach is cost-effective. You save time and resources. It’s helpful for platforms that have to process large amounts of data. It also monitors content in real-time, so risky posts won’t be around long enough for people to take notice of them.

But it also runs the risk of reading false negatives and false positives. Content may be flagged as harmful when it’s not, largely due to AI’s lack of understanding on the nuances of language and culture.

Combining both strategies is the ideal approach. Automated work can do most of the heavy lifting, and humans can act as a second layer of accuracy.

And there you have it! Content moderation matters because it keeps our digital spaces safe and respectful, and it makes every user’s experience a positive one.

That's why investing in effective content moderation strategies, whether through human moderators, automated systems, or a combination of both, is crucial for brands looking to build and nurture a strong online community. By prioritizing the safety and well-being of your audience, you not only protect your brand's reputation but also contribute to a healthier and more enjoyable online ecosystem for all.

Thanks for tuning in to today's episode. See you next time!