Content Moderation: What It Is & How It Works
Content moderation helps organizations ensure that the shared content adheres to platform rules, community standards, and jurisdictions' laws.
In today's digital world, user-generated content (UGC) forms a significant part of the content landscape on various platforms, from social media to e-commerce marketplaces and online forums. While UGC offers a wealth of insights and user engagement, it also poses challenges related to inappropriate content, violations of guidelines, and potential legal issues.
But what does content moderation mean in concrete terms? How does it function and why is it indispensable in the modern digital context? This article explores content moderation trends and concepts, explains how it works, and shares some content moderation and improvement best practices.
What is content moderation?
Content moderation is the process of monitoring and applying a predetermined set of rules and guidelines to content to determine if it's acceptable or not. The key goal of content moderation is to ensure the posted content, whether text, images, or video and audio, does not violate the platform’s guidelines or standards.It’s important to note that different types of content moderation apply to different situations, especially when contrasting User Generated Content (UGC) and E-commerce content.
- E-commerce Content Moderation: On e-commerce platforms, content moderation is crucial to maintain the trustworthiness of products and sellers, as well as to ensure reviews and ratings are genuine, helpful, and follow guidelines. It might involve checking for counterfeits, ensuring product listings or descriptions are accurate and appropriate, moderating user reviews and Q&A sections, and preventing fraud. Note that listings, titles, images, and other content generated by the seller is also considered UGC, but we aim to differentiate between seller-generated content and other UGC within this guide.
- User-Generated Content (UGC) Moderation: UGC platforms, such as social media sites, forums, blogs, etc., rely heavily on content moderation to ensure community guidelines and legal requirements are followed. This type of moderation often includes verifying the legitimacy of user profiles, monitoring content to prevent hate speech, discrimination, graphic violence, explicit content, etc.
Why is it important?
Content moderation is of critical importance for a variety of reasons, and differs depending on the use-case.
Within E-commerce Platforms
E-commerce marketplaces thrive on specific types of user-generated content, whether produced by the seller or the customers—product listings, reviews, and feedback. The quality, authenticity, and appropriateness of this content greatly influences the marketplace's reputation and potential customers' decision-making process.
Content moderation in e-commerce plays an essential role in fostering a safe, trustworthy, and user-friendly marketplace. Effective moderation helps ensure product listings are accurate, reviews are genuine, and any inappropriate or misleading content is identified and removed. This is pivotal for the integrity of the marketplace, user trust, and overall customer experience.
For those running multichannel e-commerce businesses, you must moderate according to the specific rules of each channel. The standards and rules for content aren't necessarily the same across all platforms.
Notably, enriching the marketplace with high-quality content is equally vital for e-commerce success. This could involve optimizing product titles and descriptions, encouraging insightful reviews, or enriching visuals. Better content translates into better user experiences, which can promote customer dwell time, foster trust, and impact purchasing decisions.
User-Generated Content on Other Platforms
Online communities and various applications that rely on user-generated content - comments, images, videos - also significantly benefit from content moderation. It is essential for managing the quality and relevance of the content and protecting users from inappropriate or harmful material.
Content moderation in the context of UGC can contribute to a safe and enjoyable user experience, playing a crucial role in maintaining a respectful environment for interaction. It allows platforms to manage their reputation, and is key to audience growth, engagements, and overall platform sustainability.
In summary, content moderation is invaluable in e-commerce marketplaces, online communities, and other arenas where UGC is prevalent. It contributes to user safety, reputation management, audience growth, and business longevity.
Types of content moderation
Content moderation has roots in different forms, and each type serves unique purposes.
Human content moderation
Human content moderation involves a designated team of individuals who manually review and regulate UGC according to the platform's guidelines. This type of moderation is most prevalent on social media platforms.
If you’re a member of a Facebook group, you may have noticed that each group has one or more moderators managing the Facebook page. They’re responsible for monitoring content on the group’s feed, ensuring everyone follows the rules, and curating the overall atmosphere.
This approach–despite its popularity–has disadvantages in terms of resource and time limitations, language barriers, and human bias. What’s more, human content moderation is challenging for the individuals doing the moderating, who must endure exposure to disturbing images and posts so you don’t have to.
Automated or AI content moderation
Automated content moderation refers to the use of software or tools, typically powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to monitor, analyze, and manage seller or user-generated content. This kind of moderation works without the necessity for continuous human intervention, making it an efficient approach to handling vast amounts of content.
The system uses defined algorithms and learns from data sets to recognize inappropriate content such as nudity, violence, hate speech, spam, or profanity. Depending on the platform's settings, the automated system can either flag the inappropriate content for manual review or remove it immediately. There are limitations to these automated tools, however, since it’s difficult to create rules that apply to all content.
Some of these tools focus only on content moderation. So if you’re looking for the complete package – moderation and improvement – you’ll have to read the fine print so you know what you’re getting.
Hybrid content moderation
Bringing the unique advantages of AI and humans together, Membrace is pioneering the use of Hybrid AI for content moderation. This process involves in-house machine learning models working in tandem with proprietary Human-in-the-Loop (HITL) technology.
The high-speed and scalability of AI bring efficiency to the moderation process. AI algorithms can quickly parse through substantial volumes of content, flagging potential violations based on a set of predefined rules. Additionally, they enable the detection of duplicate content, offer assistance in enriching product parameters, and even help in improving descriptions.
However, the capabilities of AI hit a ceiling when it comes to understanding contextual nuances, intent, or cultural sensitivity—areas where the human mind excels. That's where HITL comes into play. The human element in the Hybrid AI system critically reviews the content flagged by the automated system, exercising judgment and cultural competency only a human can provide. This dual advantage of machine and human results in a supremely adaptable and efficient approach to content moderation.
Membrace's unique technology goes beyond the basic hybrid model. As human experts resolve cases, their solutions are fed back into the machine learning model. This important feature constantly fine-tunes the AI system, allowing it to become more precise and effective over time.
Membrace's developers hail from some of the largest tech companies in Europe and have developed proprietary ML models for its Hybrid AI system. Their vast expertise allows ML tasks to be tackled in-house, lending a high degree of customization and flexibility to their solutions.
With the combined power of AI and HITL, Membrace's Hybrid AI doesn't just maintain the expected speed of moderation, it continuously improves its proficiency. This approach significantly reduces the negative impact of complex or ambiguous content, thereby improving conversion rates, enhancing Lifetime Value (LTV), and driving customer satisfaction upward.
How does content moderation work?
Content moderation possesses various forms and takes place at different stages of the content posting process.
This involves examining content before it becomes public to prevent unsuitable material from being shown. Moderators review all user-submitted content before posting on the platform. This prevents the publishing of inappropriate, offensive, or harmful content.
An e-commerce platform might implement pre-moderation for new product listings, reviewing every product listing before it's visible to customers, helping ensure each product is appropriate, correctly categorized, doesn't infringe copyright laws, and more.
In this scenario, user-generated content posts on the platform first, and moderation occurs afterwards. If the moderator deems the content violates the guidelines or is otherwise inappropriate, it gets removed.
E-commerce platforms often use post-moderation for customer reviews. Buyers leave feedback on their purchased products, which appear immediately, but moderators subsequently review them. They then remove any posts violating guidelines (e.g., containing offensive language, irrelevant content, or spam).
This type of moderation relies on users to help identify and report problematic content. Once flagged, a moderator reviews the content and takes the necessary action.
E-commerce platforms rely on reactive moderation when users give feedback on product listings or reviews. If a user flags a listing as misleading or a review as offensive, a moderator steps in to review the content and take the necessary action.
Here, a community of users is largely responsible for moderating content. This often involves voting systems, like upvotes and downvotes, to determine the visibility or appropriateness of content.
Some e-commerce sites might use distributed moderation in user Q&A sections linked to product listings. Community members can upvote helpful answers or report inaccurate ones, aiding the monitoring process.
Content moderation and content improvement form two key pillars of managing user-generated content on digital platforms. While they serve different functions, they closely interconnect, each contributing significant value to the ultimate quality of content presented to the audience.
As we’ve reviewed, content moderation is about controlling the nature of content appearing on a platform. It ensures all content aligns with the community guidelines, platform's rules, and legal requirements. Content that violates these, such as spam, inappropriate or offensive materials, or infringing content, requires removal or alteration. Effective moderation fosters a safe and respectful environment, protects the platform's reputation, and complies with legal regulations.
On the other hand, content improvement is about enhancing the overall quality and value of the content. This goes beyond merely removing or altering unsuitable content. Instead, it focuses on making the content more engaging, relevant, and valuable to the user.
In e-commerce, this could involve optimizing listings for SEO, validating image quality (checking resolution, backgrounds, blurs, inappropriate images, etc.) checking for similar products you already have in your database or the market, brand detection, customer review analysis, deduplication, and more.
In an ideal scenario, moderation and improvement work in tandem. Content moderation paves the way by eliminating unsuitable or harmful content, and content improvement steps in to enrich the remaining content, making it more appealing and valuable to users. Thus, together, they ensure that the platform not only remains safe and respectful but also engaging and helpful for its users, maximizing overall success.
Content moderation & improvement best practices
To optimally moderate and improve content, the following practices are key:
1. Use content moderation tools or services
Content moderation tools vary in their offerings, but generally, they review visual and text content such as product images, photos submitted by users, item descriptions, and user reviews.
Of course, not all content moderation tools are created equal. Membrace is an advanced content moderation platform that provides comprehensive solutions to control and maintain the quality and appropriateness of user-generated content across multiple formats: video, text, image, and audio.
Image moderation checks both quality, relevance, and appropriateness, resulting in an appealing user interface. Text moderation filters hateful language, spam, scam, and ad links, as well as ensures no promotion of products or services against laws or company policies.
With video moderation, Membrace ensures videos are clear of any unwanted scenes that could interrupt users' enjoyable viewing. Audio moderation helps in identifying unsuitable content in audio tracks and also provides sound quality checks.
In addition to content moderation and improvement, Membrace is continuously fine-tuning its ML models based on incoming user data. The focus is high accuracy, even in unique cases, applying rigorous QA methods to their 'human-in-the-loop' moderators and machine learning models. In fact, Hybrid AI by Membrace represents a substantial progression in content moderation technology, providing an unmatched blend of efficiency, adaptability, and ongoing learning.
In essence, Membrace provides real-time, tailored, and detailed 24/7 content moderation for businesses, supporting improved UX, brand integrity, and regulatory compliance across all content formats.
2. Create clear rules & guidelines
Creating clear rules and guidelines as soon as you create your site is an essential foundational step for an effective content moderation strategy. Here are some steps you can use to establish them:
- Understand Your Audience: Assess your target demographic–their age, cultural background, sensitivities, and preferences. This understanding should shape the boundaries of the acceptable content on your platform.
- Identify Unacceptable Content: Clearly define prohibited content. This could include harassment, hate speech, explicit or adult content, graphic violence, promotion of illegal activities, blurry or low-quality images, and spam.
- Clear Communication: Ensure that your rules and guidelines are clear, specific, and easily understandable. Avoid jargon or legal language that may confuse users.
- Examples & Scenarios: Use examples to illustrate what kind of behavior or content is acceptable or unacceptable. This could involve hypothetical scenarios or anonymized real examples.
- Consequences of Violations: Inform users of the consequences if they violate the guidelines. This can range from content removal and warnings to account suspensions or banning.
- Update Regularly: As your community grows and evolves, regularly update your rules to reflect changing norms, new challenges, or feedback from your users. In e-commerce, as the market evolves, the rules should reflect new product categories, emerging consumer sensitivities, new forms of fraud or spam, or adapt to user feedback and changing laws.
- Visibility: Make your guidelines easily accessible. Prominently display them on your site, preferably during user registrations, account logins, or content submissions.
Establishing clear rules and guidelines provides a framework for moderating content, setting expectations for users, and facilitating tough decisions on content removal or approval. This practice helps ensure a safer and more respectful digital environment.
3. Start moderating early
Early implementation of content moderation policies makes it easier to manage content when a business scales. It offers several key advantages, particularly when it comes to scaling:
- Prevention Over Cure: Implementing a robust moderation system early on helps prevent the spread of inappropriate content before it becomes a larger issue. This proactive approach saves a lot of time and effort in the long run.
- Brand Reputation: Early content moderation helps maintain your brand's image and integrity. When users see that you care about their safety and experience from the get-go, they are more likely to trust and stick with your platform.
- Improved User Experience: Creating a consistently safe, respectful, and valuable content environment enhances overall user experience, which can drive user acquisition and retention.
- Scalability: Addressing moderation in the early stages prepares businesses for future growth. As the platform scales and user activity increases, the moderation process will already be in place to handle larger volumes of content, preventing the system and the moderation team from getting overwhelmed.
- Community Building: By setting clear guidelines and expectations for user behavior from the start, you help foster a positive, respectful community that aligns with your brand values.
Overall, early content moderation is a strategic and wise business move. It sets a solid foundation for the platform's growth, helping ensure that scalability doesn't compromise user experience or brand reputation.
4. Moderate all types of content
User-generated content (UGC) on e-commerce platforms and other services, although distinct in nature, both require diligent moderation to maintain platform integrity, safety, and a positive user experience.
UGC refers to various forms of content, including reviews, comments, photos, videos, and forum discussions, largely generated on social media platforms, blogs, or review sites. E-commerce content, on the other hand, is often business or seller-generated like product listings, but also includes UGC like customer reviews and buyer-seller Q&A.
Let's take an example of UGC on an e-commerce platform: customer reviews. These are vital for the decision-making process of potential buyers, and their authenticity and appropriateness have a significant impact on the platform's reputation.
The analysis of these reviews helps prevent the spread of spam, inappropriate language, or personal attacks. It also offers businesses opportunities to connect further with their customers - a chance to address any concerns if a customer isn't satisfied with a product or service.
With photo moderation, an essential practice for both UGC and e-commerce platforms, it's crucial to ensure the photos and videos of products, either uploaded by the seller or shared by users in reviews, are clear and high quality. Studies show that poor image quality can create an impression of a low-quality product, consequently resulting in fewer sales.
Whether dealing with UGC within online communities or on e-commerce sites, moderation plays a central role in building trust, fostering a respectful community, and greatly enhancing user experience.
Improve Your Content Moderation
As we move into a digital era where quality content is king, content moderation is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Bolster your online platform with Membrace.ai, an AI-powered software dedicated to helping you moderate and improve your online content.
Leveraging the industry's unique Hybrid AI technology, Membrace combines in-house machine learning models with proprietary crowdsourcing technology, also known as Human-in-the-Loop (HITL). This powerful combination endows businesses with the speed and scalability of machine learning, along with the adaptability and creativity of the human mind.
Boasting an expansive network of over 2 million global workers, Membrace provides 24/7 manual checks and adheres to hybrid AI principles for an efficient and robust moderation process. Their systems are equipped to handle any volume of data, thereby accommodating rapidly growing businesses or those experiencing unexpected traffic surges due to events like spam attacks or viral content.
Moreover, Membrace offers customizability within moderation classes, allowing brands to tailor moderation rules according to their specific standards and responses. This combination of machine efficiency, human discernment, and client-specific customizability ensures an optimal moderation approach for each business.