Due to the gigantic amounts of user-generated content that goes online continuously, it’s difficult to stay on top of content moderation. Plus, the risks of exposing human moderators to harmful content make manual moderation less and less desirable. This is where automated content moderation comes in. 

Content moderation is crucial for the functioning of digital platforms today. It provides a much-needed safety net that protects online users from harmful and illegal content. 

The reasons are numerous: online businesses have a moral obligation to protect their users from inappropriate content, uphold their brand reputation as a secure space, and comply with applicable regulations that require the removal of illegal and offensive materials. 

What Is Automated Content Moderation?

Automated content moderation entails the use of technology to speed up the removal of inappropriate and harmful content and to automate the tedious tasks of reviewing every single posting by hand. 

While named ‘automated’, it consists of a mixture between algorithms and a final human review in most cases. That’s why it’s sometimes referred to as a semi-automated. Technology does the heavy lifting, while the input of human moderators is necessary only after an automatic prescreening or in certain situations. 

Automating the process of content moderation is done by using AI-powered algorithms. They identify inappropriate content on the basis of previously fed data. 

The moderation platform filters content by recognizing illegal, sexually explicit or harmful elements in visuals, text, videos and even live streams. Depending on the thresholds for moderation, it may prompt for human input for cases that cannot be discerned by the AI. 

Benefits of Automated Content Moderation

The advantages of using automated moderation are numerous. The new technology has practically revolutionized how platforms based on user-generated content are handling these processes.

1. Speed

Our digital world requires a fast pace of moderation. No one would like to wait days before their social media post goes live because it has to be reviewed by a human moderator.

One of the biggest promises of automation — which it truly delivers on — is speed. Moderating the tons of content that go online every second seems like a mission impossible without technology. But with its help, it can occur in real time. 

With algorithms, the moderation process gets faster and more efficient. Content that is undoubtedly harmful or illegal can be immediately taken down. Dubious content automatically gets flagged and forwarded for human review. This makes the whole cycle quicker, providing for end users the immediacy of online media. 

2. Moderation at Scale

For online businesses, speed relates to scale too. If you’re running a platform that’s bound to grow, you need a viable moderation solution for handling an exponentially growing amount of user-generated content. 

Manual moderation wouldn’t be a feasible way to manage the huge amounts of content — it would require a very large team of human moderators and a very tight work schedule. The logical solution is automation, which can take over a huge chunk of the moderation process. 

Using automated content moderation helps digital platforms grow, while allowing them to preserve their security standards and to uphold their Trust and Safety programs. 

3. Protection of Human Moderators

A significant benefit of automated content moderation is related to the work of human moderators. It prevents them from having to go through the most disturbing content, as it gets automatically prescreened. 

The negative psychological effects of moderation are not a secret, and the job is deemed as a truly challenging one. The more these risks can be curbed, the better it gets for both moderators and the platforms they work for. 

Automated Content Moderation
Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Limitations of Automated Content Moderation

While it’s mostly a winning move, there are some drawbacks to using automation in the content moderation process. Still, with good planning, they can also be easily overcome. 

For the time being, the moderation process is not fully automated. Instead, a semi-automated approach is the best solution for now. The input of human moderators is still necessary for certain decisions and sensitive cases because of their ability for critical reflection. 

The hard work is being done by the algorithms, and people are involved only at the last stages. The content has been pre-screened, but needs a final yes or no by a moderator. While not fully automatic, this saves tremendous amounts of work hours, plus reduces the exposure to harmful content. 

While the moderation technology is still learning and being improved, there may be some mistakes in the identification of harmful content. Technology still struggles with recognizing context in certain cases. Some inappropriate content may slip through, while compliant content may get flagged. The platform needs to be updated regularly to include the latest news and cultural symbols. 

While all of this is challenging, AI- and machine learning-powered systems are becoming better and better at recognizing illegal and harmful content. They are learning with every new input they’re processing, which sets a high promise for their future performance. 

Another hurdle for automated content moderation is the limited ability of technology to grasp contextual variations in speech, images and in cultural norms as a whole. The use of certain words or slang phrases in one region may be perfectly fine, while they may be offensive in other places. Nuances and variations in language and behavior may also be difficult to catch for automated platforms. Contextual use of imagery can be a tough nut to crack too. 

How Does Automated Content Moderation Work?

Automated content moderation can be used in different ways, depending on the needs of your platform:

  • Pre-moderation: algorithms screen all content before it goes live
  • Post-moderation: content is screened shortly after it’s gone live; this is the most popular method
  • Reactive moderation: users report posts for inappropriateness after they have been published  

Whichever method you choose, your first step will be to set your moderation policy. You’ll need to define the rules and types of content that have to be removed, depending on the overall strategy of your platform. Thresholds also have to be set, so that the moderation tool has clear demarcation when content violates your standards. 

In the most common case of post-moderation, all user-generated content is processed by the moderation platform. On the basis of the set rules and thresholds, clearly inappropriate content is immediately removed. Due to the automation, this can happen quite soon after it’s been published. Some items are considered trickier by the algorithm, and they are fed for human review. Content moderators access the questionable items through the moderation interface. Then they make the final decision to keep or remove the content.   

Whenever content is forwarded for manual moderation, the training data from the human moderators’ actions feeds back into the automated moderation platform. In this way, the AI learns from the subtleties in human decisions to remove or keep certain content. With time, the new learnings enrich the algorithms and make the automatic process more and more accurate. 

What Type of Content Can You Moderate Automatically?

You can use automated content moderation with all types of content — visual, textual, and even with moving images. 

1. Visuals

With the help of computer vision, automated platforms can identify inappropriate content in images through object detection mechanisms. They use algorithms to recognize unwanted elements and their position for an understanding of the whole scene. Offensive text can also be spotted, even if it is contained in an image. 

The types of inappropriate visuals you can catch with fully automated content moderation include:

  • Nudity and pornography
  • Self-harm and gore
  • Alcohol, drugs, and forbidden substances
  • Weapons and torture instruments
  • Verbal abuse, harsh language, and racism
  • Obscene gestures
  • Graffiti and demolished sights
  • Physical abuse and slavery
  • Mass fights
  • Propaganda and terrorism
  • Infamous or vulgar symbols
  • Infamous landmarks
  • Infamous people
  • Horror and monstrous images
  • Culturally-defined inappropriateness

2. Text 

Natural language processing (NLP) algorithms can recognize the main meaning of a text and its emotional charge. Automated moderation can identify the tone of the text and then categorize it thanks to sentiment analysis. It can also search for certain keywords within textual content. Additionally, built-in knowledge databases can be used to predict the compliance of texts with moderation policies. 

Algorithms can screen for:

  • Bullying and harassment
  • Hate Speech
  • Trolling
  • Copyrighted text
  • Spam and scam 
  • Fraudulent text
  • Pornographic text

3. Video

Video moderation requires the most complex process. The whole file has to be reviewed to ensure its compliance. Computer vision identifies inappropriate elements in the visual parts, while other algorithms are used to analyze the audio too. Automated content moderation is applicable even for live streaming where the screening process is in real time. 

Automated Content Moderation Solutions

Imagga’s content moderation platform provides you with all the tools you need to automate your moderation process. It’s a powerful and easy-to-use solution that you can integrate in your operations — and prepare your platform for scaling.

Imagga’s AI-powered pre-trained systems analyze all content on the basis of the moderation guidelines that you have set. Our API learns on the go too, so it improves with every project it processes. 

In the Admin Dashboard, you can create different categories of inappropriate content to look for and define the parameters for each. You can set priority levels for projects, as well as thresholds for flagging and forwarding content for human moderation. You can also control data retention length. 

The Moderation Interface is crafted to make your human moderators’ job easier. They get automatically prescreened content that they can review faster and with reduced risks because the most horrible content has already been removed. Moderators can use handy hotkeys and organize their work effectively in the interface.   

With Imagga’s content moderation platform, you can effectively ensure the protection of your users, your brand reputation, and your human moderators. You can use our tools in the cloud or on premise — and you can easily plug them in your current processes, whether you have an in-house or an outsourced moderation team

Automated Content Moderation Case Studies

1. Live Streaming Use Case

  • Simultaneous moderation of live video streams is needed
  • Can’t be done via manual moderation due to privacy concerns
  • Automated moderation guarantees the privacy
  • Done in short interval of time, and if a problematic stream is detected, escalated to the website admins to follow nsfw policies – sending warning or/and terminating the stream, etc

2. Dating website Use Case

  • similar to above but images uploaded for profile, videos and live stream chat if supported 
  • Different levels of moderation regarding country of operation and type of dating website. 
  • Automated CM removes the privacy concerns as it might be very sensitive when it comes to dating websites

3. Travel web sites Use Case

  • Moderation of both images and texts – travel sights are better thanks to the reviews visitors leave – moderation of the text and images/videos is needed 
  • Automated CM makes possible real time publishing of reviews when they pass the auto CM filter

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Automated Content Moderation?

Automated content moderation entails the processing of user-generated content by computer vision and AI-powered algorithms. This makes the moderation process faster and more efficient, and it protects human moderators from the most disturbing content online. 

How Do Automated Content Moderation Tools Work?

Automated moderation is powered by technology that screens content for inappropriate words and images — be it in text, visuals, or video. It prescreens user-generated content and forwards to human moderators only items that are questionable.