The Do’s And Don'ts Of Content Moderation


June 25, 2022

Written by

Merlene Leano

According to a 2019 Statista report, one-third of online users worldwide fall between the ages of 25 and 34. Meanwhile, 18% of users worldwide were between the ages of 18 and 24. In 2021, the total number of internet users is estimated to be around 4,832.89 million, and it is expected to continuously increase and reach over 5,631.54 million by 2025.

Internet User Statistics graph

What does this mean for content moderation?

The more users there are on every imaginable online platform, the higher the volume of content that must be inspected and regulated. This is why content moderation is a necessary service, especially for user-generated content—which overruns a huge chunk of the digital space.

More importantly, a significant number of online users at present are within what is considered an impressionable age range. These bright young minds are influenced deeply by the people they follow and the type of content that they encounter daily, particularly on the platforms they use. They can be molded much easier by what they are exposed to as opposed to their older counterparts.

The current market requires that any online business understand the fact that the internet, as trivial as it may sometimes be, is a very intimate place that a lot of people have comfortably set as their “virtual second home”. As their virtual home, it provides insights into each user, making it the best place to discover the ethics of content generation and content moderation.

Do you want to know how to be a good moderator? You’ve come to the right place! Here we will explore the best ways to practice content moderation and what to avoid so it can become an effective addition to your firm’s troll-fighting initiatives.

Content Moderation Dos

content moderation do's with a thumbs up

In a generation where people heavily rely on word-of-mouth, it is safe to say that “Content is the king”. However, not all content may leave a magnificent impact on your brand. Below are essential factors to consider for better and easier content moderation (and in the bigger picture—content management).

1. Get Familiarized with the Nature of the Business 

The nature of the business dictates a lot of what content should be allowed and denied. That is why to be a good content moderator, one must have a thorough awareness of the service offered by the brand whose reputation you are trying to protect. Think of it as a prerequisite for ensuring that the type of moderation used to safeguard your brand aligns with your branding and marketing objectives.

2. Know Your Target Audience

One of the best practices of content moderation is to be familiar with your target demographics to evaluate which content is appropriate and which is not. Knowing your audience and their specific preferences prevent instances wherein content is mistakenly banned or flagged. It is a typical scenario for brands that cater to NSFW topics or NSFV content.

Yes, moderation is supposed to curb the spread of explicit material, but some forums and communities are specifically designed to cater to such niches. Depending on the nature of the business or online community, some discussions may center on cannabis or sex, which may sound exploitative, disrespectful, or "taboo" to most people. 

Subreddits such as r/sex and r/trees, for example, are popular with users who are bored with skimming the surface of such topics and have decided to delve deeper into its context.

You might be thinking “They’re already talking about sex and drugs, why should I still moderate it?”

Fair point, however, it's important to remember that your duty as a moderator is to monitor user behavior regardless of the topic. Assuming you are a moderator of r/sex or another comparable community, your role is to supervise and track how members conduct themselves within the communities. Just because the thread is about sex, that doesn’t mean that members can harass others freely or flirt with them.

Moderators ensure that the community is a pleasant, intriguing, interactive, and well-organized place for users to contribute their fair share of ideas, thoughts, and/or opinions on any thread they fancy. All members or followers of a community or page must always follow the community-specific guidelines established by the admins and contribute something insightful to the conversation.

Take a look at r/sex’s community guidelines.

3. Impose House Rules & Community Guidelines

Rules are the fundamental component that distinguishes a moderator from others. Without the ability to impart the importance of adhering to community-specific norms among members, a community will simply become another breeding ground for trolls. Ambiguous guidelines are as good as non-existent. As long as there are certain areas of the rules that are unclear or have loopholes, expect that there will be more instances of non-compliance among followers and community members.

Implementing clear ground rules within the community allows you to better understand your members' (or customers') expectations, standards, and points of view. In short, you learn what types of content are considered harmful to them.

All you need to do to create an effective community guideline is to be as thorough as possible. Keep it brief yet precise, and target the pitfalls that communities typically face on a regular basis, such as harassment, racism, prejudice, and other forms of bullying and harmful behavior online. Developing a set of concise rules clarifies the desired demeanor of each and every member.

4. Use Self-Moderation or Distributed Moderation with Caution

Yet another best practice for content moderation is to encourage self-moderation or distributed moderation. As a quick refresher, distributed moderation is a content monitoring mechanism that allows community members to manage information submitted in threads, community discussions, and comment areas via polls or a voting system.

Giving customers this option allows your company to get to know your customers better because it clearly indicates their preferences and opinions on several topics. Allowing users to vote on whether a piece of content should be allowed or shared speeds up the content management process.

Be careful not to rely too heavily on the power of crowdsourcing or distributed moderation. Although effective in regulating the workload, employing the help of community members has the lowest level of accuracy and security. The method is heavily reliant on the perspectives of members, which takes time to take effect. It is best to employ self-moderation in conjunction with other types of content monitoring methods.

5. Know Your Moderation Techniques

Most people believe that moderation consists solely of filtering inappropriate and undesired online content. However, they fail to realize that there are various elements to consider before building your moderation system. These factors include your audience, company structure, and specialization.

Knowing which moderating strategy to apply is critical for increasing your brand's interaction with users. Pre-moderation, for example, is not an ideal (yet still effective) moderation strategy if you want to have continuous engagement with your followers in comment sections or niche-specific threads. The reason being that the review process occurs before the post becomes publicly available. 

Meanwhile, post-moderation allows users to publish anything. Moderation follows after the content is posted, and it helps maintain a continuous growth of discussions. You can also increase security by configuring your moderation system to accommodate multimedia content and profile screening.

6. Highlight Open Communication

The next content moderation smart practice on the list is to establish an outstanding connection with your followers or customers. Moderators must be skilled not just at supervising user actions, but also at developing connections with clients through open communication.

Moderators should also be responsive. This is especially true if there are no current posts on the forum or community. They should always be prepared to start fresh, trending, and relevant topics to effectively ignite discussions and engagement among group members. See to it that all users understand why their posts are being deleted or banned. Provide a full report outlining their violations as well as the underlying repercussions of their actions.

Furthermore, when members express concerns or inquire about issues or policies, moderators should answer as soon as possible with a concise list of solutions. Better yet, redirect them to the community’s FAQs page for more thorough explanations.

The goal is to create a venue that will bridge the gap between the brand and its followers. In the end, flawless communication is the foundation of a successful business and online community.

7. Business Capability

Is it within the means of your company? Which types of content need to be moderated? Are filters with automated processing necessary or not? What types of moderation tools should your company maximize to boost targeted engagement?

Such questions help to establish whether your company should continue to use manual moderation, recruit internal moderators, or contract with an outside moderation agency for assistance in putting your content monitoring techniques into action. Taking into account these aspects has a significant impact on the overall functions of your work and the ways in which you can keep stability over the long run.

Content Moderation Don’ts

content moderation don'ts with a thumbs down

The disadvantage to employing content moderation practices is it could be a double-edged sword. Indeed, it allows you to safeguard your customers and followers from fraudulent and malicious UGCs. It also helps create an opportunity to effectively create a solid bond with your target demographic. 

At the same time, if you don't know how to use it, you risk tainting your image. As such, you must also know and understand what you should not do when moderating.

1. Relying Too Much on Automated Filters

Applications and content filtering software are only as intelligent as their creators make them. That is a proven fact. As the sophistication of automated filters increases, so do the variations of ways to get around them. The mere addition of a space or a special character in between the letters of a word easily bypasses automated filtering systems.

Don't get the wrong impression. Smart filters are wonderful, but it works best when combined with human expertise to safeguard your brand and followers more solidly.

2. Feed the Trolls

Online trolls are everywhere. They are just lurking in plain sight. Of course, you wouldn't want to be the one to stir the pot for them. Maintain a calm tone when dealing with them. Don't let them taunt you. Otherwise, you are only jeopardizing your reputation and putting your digital community at risk. 

Adapt to their acts and habits.

Ignoring them is an option. These people can't carry on with their "trolling" schemes if you let them fall on deaf ears.

Inform them. Provide an overview of the community's policies as well as the potential penalties for violating your community's policies. Better yet, if they continue to violate your guidelines, ban these trolls for good.

3. Moderation Time

This is a case-by-case situation. The time frame between posting, evaluating, making user-submitted content available for public viewing, and notifying the user in case there is a violation in their post is crucial. 

User posts and comments should not take long to appear after they are published. 

The last thing you want to do is end a thread abruptly or delay an ongoing real-time conversation. Furthermore, users should be informed as soon as possible whether the content they contributed has been accepted or denied by the community moderators. It gives them an opportunity to correct their error.

4. Overlook Feedback

This list of content moderation best practices would be incomplete without mentioning that you should never, ever ignore feedback. Feedback opens the way for organizations to foster member and customer loyalty.

Most businesses are terrified of constructive criticism, especially when it is announced publicly. There is a high possibility that administrators will be instructed to automatically delete content containing negative feedback. 

What they do not realize is this gives them the opportunity to examine or revamp their current strategy to provide better services to their customers. It's also a great approach to planning your roadmap ahead of time, making it easier for your team to come up with more plausible resolutions to various UGC-related issues you've encountered in the past.

Furthermore, feedback provides insight into your followers' perspectives and preferences. It gives the advantage of designing faster and more effective remedies. Instead of immediately deleting or flagging not-so-favorable remarks, give it a little more time and analyze the message behind the comment or feedback. In this manner, your users will feel respected and acknowledged.

It’s Not A Messy Business!

Some may argue that content moderation is as muddled as it gets. In truth, prompt execution is key to proving its naysayers wrong! Understand the principles of the proper and optimum techniques to monitor damaging UGCs and reprimand the individuals responsible for them. Always stay one step ahead by understanding how moderation should be carried out to ensure that your digital marketing and audience engagement efforts will not be put to waste.


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