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  • Writer's pictureSigurður Ragnarsson

Guide to Outsourcing Content Moderation: Pros and Cons 



 

Content moderation is non-negotiable when it comes to running an online platform. The task of moderating user-generated content often resembles an endless marathon on a treadmill, a daunting challenge for platforms swamped by a high volume of users and daily traffic.


Having worked in the tech space for entire professional lives, we understand that outsourcing content moderation is a method that is gaining popularity among companies looking to navigate the world of online content governance. With more platforms turning to outsourcing to manage the complexities of content moderation, this article explores the different models of outsourcing, their challenges, and the best practices for outsourcing content moderation.


What does it mean to outsource your content moderation services?


When content moderation is outsourced, external organizations are tasked with monitoring, flagging, removing, and in some cases even organizing online content. From hiring a team of moderators at an external agency to using AI content moderation, there are ways to adhere to your platform’s community guidelines and comply with laws without internal staff performing this tedious (yet necessary) task. Among other issues, many companies outsource to alleviate their internal team of mental strain from reviewing and monitoring harmful content.


Content moderation outsourcing model


Human moderators


Outsourcing with human-driven content moderation involves real people reviewing and managing user-generated content. This method is typically used for complex decision-making tasks that require an understanding of context, cultural nuances, and subtle language.


Human moderators have the advantage of employing manual content moderation types that an AI cannot. While slower and less scalable than AI, it can make content decisions with a real-life perspective behind it. As for the issue of viewing harmful imagery, human moderators would still be subjected to reviewing loads of harmful content.



AI moderation


AI content moderation outsourcing uses algorithms, machine learning, and natural language processing to automatically filter and manage content. The AI learns to recognize patterns that indicate different types of content, both acceptable and unacceptable.




This learning is based on large datasets that have been labeled to show what kind of content they contain. AI is most efficient for handling large volumes of data and straightforward moderation tasks.



Hybrid moderation


Hybrid content moderation outsourcing combines the strengths of both human and AI moderation. AI tools first filter content, handling clear-cut cases, and escalating complex or borderline cases to human moderators.




Feedback from human moderators is used to train and improve the AI algorithms, making them more accurate and effective over time. This creates a feedback loop where both AI and human input contribute to better moderation.


Advantages of outsourcing content moderation


1. Cost efficiency


Reduced operational costs


Outsourcing eliminates the need for companies to invest in the infrastructure, technology, and training required for in-house moderation. By leveraging external agencies, businesses can significantly reduce operational costs.


Flexibility in budgeting


Companies can choose service plans that suit their budget, paying only for the services they need. This is particularly beneficial for businesses with fluctuating content volumes.


2. Expertise and specialization


Access to skilled professionals


Outsourcing firms often employ moderators who are experienced and trained in handling various types of content. This expertise ensures more effective and accurate moderation.


Advanced tools and technologies


These firms typically use sophisticated software and AI tools for initial content filtering, something that might be too costly or complex for many companies to develop in-house.


3. Scalability


Adaptability to changing needs


Content volume can fluctuate dramatically. Outsourcing provides the flexibility to easily scale moderation efforts up or down as required, without the need for businesses to hire or lay off staff.


Global coverage


For platforms with a worldwide audience, outsourcing firms can provide moderation in multiple languages and across different time zones, offering around-the-clock service.


4. Focus on core company goals


By entrusting content moderation to external experts, companies can concentrate on their primary business activities. This allows them to dedicate more resources and attention to product development, customer service, and strategic planning.


5. Risk mitigation


Professional moderation firms are adept at navigating online content's complex legal and regulatory landscape. By outsourcing, businesses can reduce the risk of inadvertently violating these regulations.


6. Consistency in enforcement


Outsourcing firms can ensure a more uniform application of content guidelines across all content, as internal company politics or biases do not influence them.




Challenges and best practices


While there are many benefits to outsourcing content moderation, there are certain obstacles that businesses need to take into account. It is essential to understand these to make informed choices and guarantee efficient content governance.




Organizations should set clear expectations and standards for the outsourcing business to guarantee a successful outsourcing experience. This includes specifying the precise categories of content that require regulation as well as the necessary degree of moderation.


Outsourcing content moderation, while advantageous in many respects, also presents certain challenges and considerations that companies must navigate. Understanding these is crucial for making informed decisions and ensuring effective content management. 


1. Quality control


Ensuring consistent and accurate moderation decisions can be challenging when working with an external team. Different moderators may interpret guidelines differently, leading to inconsistency.


Establishing effective communication channels for feedback and improvement is crucial. Without proper feedback processes, outsourced teams might not align with the company's evolving content policies.


2. Cultural and Contextual Understanding


Moderators from different cultural backgrounds might need to fully understand the nuances of content specific to other regions or communities, leading to inappropriate content decisions.


The risk of misinterpreting the context or intent behind a piece of content can be higher with an external team not deeply ingrained in the company's ethos and user community.


3. Data security and privacy


Outsourcing involves sharing user-generated content, which might include sensitive information, with a third party. Ensuring data security and compliance with privacy laws is crucial.


There's an inherent risk of data breaches or misuse of information when dealing with external entities, which can have legal and reputational consequences.


4. Ethical and workforce concerns


The mental well-being of content moderators, who often deal with disturbing material, is a significant concern. Ensuring ethical working conditions in outsourcing firms is essential.


Over-reliance on an outsourced team can lead to losing in-house expertise and capabilities in content moderation, making companies dependent on external providers.


5. Regulatory compliance


Companies must ensure that their outsourcing partners comply with various international laws and regulations related to online content, which can vary significantly across regions.


6. Vendor selection and management


 Selecting a vendor that aligns with the company's standards and expectations is critical. Poor selection can lead to various issues, including ineffective moderation. Establishing clear contracts and service level agreements (SLAs) to define expectations, roles, responsibilities, and penalties for non-compliance is essential.


7. Integration with in-house processes


Ensuring that the outsourced moderation processes integrate seamlessly with in-house workflows and systems can be challenging but vital for smooth operations.


8. Reputation and brand image


How the outsourcing of moderation is viewed by the public can impact a brand's image. There's a risk that it could be seen as shirking responsibility for the content on one's platform.

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