Content ModerationFeb 23, 2023

What is Content Moderation? The Ultimate Guide

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Melissa Pressler


What is content moderation? It refers to the process of reviewing and regulating online user-generated content to meet specific standards set by a platform, company, or community.

TLDR; This article is a guide to help you understand the complex and ever-evolving field of content moderation. Content moderation aims to ensure users' safety, security, and positive experience in online communities. You will find resources below on the different types of content moderation, how it works, different tools and technology available to you, and current challenges in the content moderation industry.

Why is content moderation important?

With the rise of social media and online communities, by effectively moderating content, platforms can create a safe and healthy environment that promotes engagement and growth. Below are the 4 main reasons content moderation is important:

1. Protection of users and the public

Content moderation protects users from harmful or inappropriate content. Inappropriate content includes hate speech, harassment, misinformation, and illegal activities.

Content moderation helps prevent harm and abuse that can negatively impact users' mental health and well-being. By removing such content, platforms can create a safer and healthier online environment for users.

2. Brand protection

Content moderation is critical for safeguarding your brand's reputation. When harmful or inappropriate material appears on your platform, it not only poses a risk to users but also tarnishes your brand's image. A damaged reputation can lead to loss of user trust, decreased engagement, and potentially, revenue loss.

Effective content moderation helps you proactively manage these risks, ensuring that your brand is associated with a safe, trustworthy, and positive online experience.

3. Maintaining a positive user experience

Effective content moderation maintains a positive user experience and community. Unmoderated content can quickly lead to a toxic environment, making it difficult for users to engage in constructive conversations or find relevant information.

4. Compliance with laws and regulations

Content moderation is necessary for platforms to comply with laws and regulations related to online content. For instance, platforms are required to remove content that violates copyright laws, violates user privacy, or contains illegal content such as child pornography. By ensuring compliance, platforms can avoid legal issues and maintain a positive reputation.

What are the different types of content moderation?

There are 6 different types of content moderation and each has different pros and cons. Some can be very precise, but labor intensive. Some are more scalable but might not catch all bad content in a timely manner.

1. Pre-moderation

Pre-moderation involves reviewing content before it is published or made public. It can be time-consuming and may cause delays in content delivery, but it allows for a higher level of control over what content is made available.

Read more about pre-moderation and the pros and const of it.

2. Post-moderation

Post-moderation is a content moderation technique in which user-generated content is published first and then reviewed by moderators after the fact to ensure it conforms to the platform's policies and guidelines. It is a less restrictive approach than pre-moderation, allowing for quicker content distribution and user engagement, but carries the risk of inappropriate or harmful content being published before it can be removed.

Read more about post-moderation and the pros and const of it.

3. Reactive moderation

Reactive moderation involves responding to reported or flagged content that has already been published. It can be effective in removing harmful content quickly, but may not catch all problematic content and can lead to a reactive rather than a proactive approach.

Read more about reactive moderation and the pros and const of it.

4. Proactive moderation

Proactive moderation involves actively seeking out problematic content before it is reported or flagged. It can be more effective than reactive moderation, but it requires significant resources and can be difficult to scale.

Read more about proactive moderation and the pros and const of it.

5. Automated moderation

This type of moderation involves using machine learning algorithms and other automated tools to identify and remove problematic content. It can be efficient and scalable, but may not always accurately identify context and can result in false positives.

6. Hybrid moderation

This type of moderation involves combining different moderation methods to achieve the most effective approach. For example, a hybrid approach could involve using automated moderation for initial filtering, followed by human review and intervention for more nuanced content.

How does content moderation work?

The content moderation process is an essential part of maintaining a safe and appropriate online environment. By identifying unwanted content, evaluating it against policies and that harmful or inappropriate content is removed before it can do any harm.

The specific methods used for moderation will depend on the website or platform, but everyone should follow the basic principles of identification, evaluation, and action.

1. Identification of unwanted content

The first step in the moderation process is the identification of unwanted content. This could involve various methods such as:

  • Reviewing content before it is published (pre-moderation);
  • Reviewing content after it is published (post-moderation);
  • Responding to reported or flagged content (reactive-moderation);
  • Actively seeking out and removing unwanted content (proactive moderation);
  • Using software to identify and remove unwanted content (automated moderation);
  • Combining one or more of these methods to achieve the desired level of content control (hybrid moderation).

The identification of unwanted content is a crucial step in the moderation process because it allows moderators to quickly detect and remove harmful or inappropriate content before it can do any harm.

2. Evaluation of content

Once unwanted content has been identified, the next step is to evaluate it. This involves assessing the content against a set of guidelines or policies to determine whether it should be removed. Moderators may consider various factors when evaluating content such as:

  • the context in which it was posted;
  • the intent of the user who posted it;
  • the potential harm that the content may cause.

The evaluation of content is an important step in the moderation process because it ensures that decisions to remove content are made in a consistent and fair manner.

3. Taking action on the content

The final step in the moderation process is taking action on the content. Depending on the severity of the violation, moderators may take different actions such as:

  • Removing the content;
  • Issuing a warning or penalty to the user who posted it;
  • Reporting the content to law enforcement agencies.

The type of action taken will depend on the policies and guidelines of the website or platform, as well as the severity of the violation.

What tools and technology are used in content moderation?

Content moderation relies on tools and technology to manage the large volume of user-generated content. The most effective content moderation approach will depend on the specific needs and goals of the organization.

A combination of the 5 techniques below may be the best approach for achieving accurate and efficient content moderation while maintaining the quality and community standards of user-generated content.

1. AI content moderation:

AI techniques, such as machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision, are increasingly used in content moderation. AI algorithms can automatically flag inappropriate content, such as hate speech, harassment, and nudity, by analyzing text, images, and videos. AI-based content moderation can help to scale content moderation efforts and reduce the workload of human moderators.

2. Automated content moderation:

Automated techniques, such as keyword filters and blacklists, work by searching for specific keywords or phrases that are associated with inappropriate content. Automated techniques identify more obvious cases of inappropriate content, but they can also produce false positives, which is why they are often used in combination with other techniques.

3. Human content moderation:

Human moderation involves individuals manually reviewing, approving or rejecting user-generated content. A moderation team can bring context and nuance to the content moderation process, which is especially important for content that is difficult to evaluate with automated techniques. It can also help to enforce community guidelines and maintain the quality of user-generated content.

4. Community moderation:

Community moderation involves empowering users to flag inappropriate content and moderate their own communities. This technique helps to build a sense of community ownership and reduce the burden on the moderation team. Community moderation can also help to reduce false positives and ensure that content is evaluated in the context of the community.

5. Hybrid techniques:

Hybrid techniques involve using a combination of the techniques above to achieve more accurate and efficient content moderation. For example, a hybrid approach might involve using AI techniques to flag potentially inappropriate content, followed by human moderators to review the flagged content and make a final decision.

What are the common challenges in content moderation?

Content moderation is a vital process in today's online world where millions of people create and share content on a daily basis. However, moderating user-generated content can be a daunting task given the sheer volume of content and the various types of content that need to be reviewed. Content moderation teams face a host of challenges, ranging from legal and ethical dilemmas to technical issues.

Balancing freedom of expression and responsibility

Content moderation teams face a challenging balancing act between promoting freedom of expression and ensuring that content is safe and appropriate for all users. This challenge is especially relevant when dealing with sensitive or controversial topics, such as politics, religion, or social justice issues. Moderators need to be aware of the nuances of each community they serve and understand that what is considered acceptable in one community may not be appropriate in another.

Dealing with hate speech, cyberbullying, and harassment

Hate speech, cyberbullying, and harassment are some of the most difficult content types to moderate. These issues are often emotionally charged and require a high level of sensitivity and expertise to handle properly. Moderators must balance the need to protect users from harmful content with the need to respect freedom of expression. This can be especially challenging in cases where the line between protected speech and harmful content is not clear.

Compliance with data privacy laws

Data privacy laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, pose a significant challenge for content moderation. These laws require companies to protect user data and ensure that data processing is transparent and lawful. Moderators must be aware of these regulations and ensure that they are compliant with them while moderating content.

2. Technical challenges

Scaling the moderation process

Content moderation teams often struggle to keep up with the sheer volume of user-generated content. Moderators must be able to work quickly and accurately to moderate a large amount of content. This requires a scalable moderation process that can handle fluctuations in content volume and ensure that moderation is consistent and effective.

Dealing with user-generated content in different languages

Moderating user-generated content in different languages is a significant challenge. Moderators must be able to understand the nuances of different languages and cultures to ensure that content is being moderated appropriately. This can be especially challenging when moderators are not native speakers of the languages they are moderating.

Ensuring consistency and fairness in moderation decisions

Moderators must ensure that their moderation decisions are consistent and fair. This requires clear moderation policies and guidelines, as well as well-trained moderators who understand the policies and guidelines. Moderators must also be able to apply policies and guidelines consistently across all types of content and users. Inconsistency in moderation decisions can lead to user frustration and a loss of trust in the platform.

Should you use content moderation tooling?

Yes, if content moderation is not a key operation of your business. It does not need to be expensive or time-intensive. Lasso Moderation offers a premier hybrid solution where content can be moderated in a scalable and automated fashion, but with the guidance of human touch where needed. We understand that every use case is different and our platform specializes in a customizable solution that meets the specific needs of your business. Our out-of-the-box tool quickly addresses the technical and legal challenges mentioned above, in addition to streamlining your day to day operations and ensuring a positive online user experience!

Don't be shy! We welcome your questions and look forward to finding a custom solution to ease your content moderation worries. Please contact us for more information at

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