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Cultural Pitfalls for Your Content Moderation Strategy & How to Avoid Them

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Language, culture, and internet laws greatly impact content moderation. But is your content moderation strategy helping you to stay on top of these things when your business operates internationally?

There’s never been a better time to run an online business internationally. The ease of doing so is largely due to advances in technology. But it’s not unusual for the technical capability to outpace cultural norms and government regulations, meaning that having a global reach brings its problems — particularly when your business model relies on user-generated content.

So how do you ensure that everyone using your service adheres to the guidelines?

The short answer is: you can’t. You can clearly state your policies (over and over again –!), but it is harder to enforce them. Add the fact that different countries have laws (especially regarding online sales of weapons, medicines, and animals) and that these laws are often open to interpretation; you begin to see the scale of the issue. And that’s even before we consider language barriers.

On top of all this, laws constantly change or come into existence as fresh issues surface and garner public attention. In 2016, for instance, India’s environment minister announced that he would hire cyber crime specialists to monitor online ads of wildlife items. In Germany, politicians have proposed a fine to online sites of up to €50 million if they fail to remove hate speech.

Controlling content can be tricky if you govern a global platform or run a niche international online marketplace. Consider how Facebook constantly comes under fire for its approach to content moderation. Who’s to blame for the posted fake news and revenge porn? Can the platform be held accountable for the actions of its users? To what extent can an unsavory post be considered illegal? What even constitutes ‘unsavory’ and/or ‘illegal’?

Navigating the cultural waters

Context accounts for a great deal. When you operate across many different countries (like Facebook), it’s easy to overlook cultural nuances. User habits, types of online communications, and the tone of communications can vary greatly between individuals — let alone nations. Consider humor: what’s socially acceptable in one country can be tantamount to treason in another.

In the UK, where irony is the default humor setting, a throwaway comment about wanting to ‘do away with’ all those responsible for the ongoing political upheaval could easily be written off as someone ‘venting’.

In the US, however, a Trump opponent posted a similarly tacit comment about wanting to ‘put an end to the administration,’ that comment could be deemed illegal (given that a threat against the President’s life is a criminal act in America).

In short, international content moderation is a multicultural minefield. The best way to tackle this is to work with those who innately understand the local customs, laws, and languages: which is why territory/country manager-moderators are necessary.

Cultural fluency is key

At Besedo, we have teams of native or culturally fluent moderators. As well as knowledge of each market, they can provide you with the insight needed to successfully adapt your platform or marketplace’s policies on a local level.

Ultimately, as a business, your customers come first. Understanding their needs, buying habits, and how they prefer to do business — while obeying the laws of their country — are the most important things you can do to ensure lasting success.

This is Besedo

Global, full-service leader in content moderation

We provide automated and manual moderation for online marketplaces, online dating, sharing economy, gaming, communities and social media.

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