The Future Of Dating Is Video: How Do You Keep Singles Safe Online?

When it comes to affairs of the heart – at a time when physical contact is off-limits – it’s time to get creative. And that exactly what online dating platforms are doing: using video interaction as the ‘date’ itself.

While it’s clear that dating is innovative, exciting, and evolving at a rapid pace, how can dating site owners ensure they keep users safe?

 

Necessity Breeds Dating Invention

Video dating is nothing new. Well, in its current, interactive form it’s brand new, but use of video as a way of introducing yourself to potential dating partners took off in the 1980s and 90s. But back then, agencies were involved. And like recruiters, it was their job to vet, interview, and engineer love matches based on compatibility and common likes and dislikes.

However, fast forward 35 years, and the ways in which we interact have shifted significantly. And they just keep innovating. Services like eHarmony, Tinder, and Bumble, each offer their own unique approach to self-service matchmaking. And while social media platforms (Facebook Dating, anyone?) have been dipping their toes into the dating pool for a little while now, nothing groundbreaking has taken the sector by storm.

Most industry insiders saw the use of video as an ‘add-on’ to dating platforms but no-one was entirely sure how this would play out. And then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Lockdowns ensued internationally. Suddenly video took on a whole new role.

Communication evolved in one major direction – online video calls and meetings. Replacing face-to-face with face-to-screen encounters in a time of social distancing represents a huge cultural shift, unimaginable back in 2019.

Whether we’re learning at home or working remotely, how we stay connected has changed significantly. Substituting in-person conversations with video meetings is now par for the course.

Despite the ensuing Zoom fatigue, being advised to stay at home has undoubtedly led to a spike in online dating. And with traditional dating venues no longer a COVID-safe option, video dating has organically risen to the forefront.

 

Why Video Dating?

While not every dating site or user is engaging with video dating yet, many are trying it out.  But what are the benefits of video dating? If your online dating platform is not already providing that service, are your users missing out?

Compared with traditional online dating, video dating has some great benefits. The most obvious reason to choose video dating is that it enables participants to experience the social presence that’s lacking in written communication. As a result, it can feel much more real and authentic than just exchanging messages or swiping photos.

With a video date, users have that experience of getting to know someone more slowly, finding out if they’re a good match in terms of personality, sense of humour, and other qualities. This means if you don’t click with someone, you’re more likely to find out sooner. Particularly at a time when in-person meetings are restricted, this is a huge advantage in terms of making the leap to meeting in person.

But swapping a bar or restaurant for a video meeting carries a different set of risks for participants. And for online dating platforms, video dating poses tough new challenges for content moderation. Especially when it comes to livestream dating with an interactive audience.

 

Dating Live & In Public

Dating in front of a live audience is nothing new. In the 1980s, television dating shows like ‘Blind Date’ in the UK experienced huge popularity. Contestants performed in front of a live studio audience and put themselves at the mercy of the general public – and the tabloid press(!).

In the 2010s, the television dating game show-style format was revived – though it followed a wider trend for ‘reality TV’ with dating shows such as ‘Love Island’ emerging and growing in popularity. However, the legacies of these shows have been tainted by a small number of poorly-vetted contestants – some even had previous convictions for sex offences – suffering serious mental-health conditions as a result of their appearance on the show.

Despite these warning signs, it seems inevitable that the trend for dating-related entertainment has been adopted by interactive online technologies – livestream dating. Often described as ‘speed dating in a public forum’, the trend for watching and participating in live video dating seems a logical extension of platforms like Twitch and TikTok.

But sites like MeetMe, Skout, and Tagged aren’t just a way of making connections – they’re also an opportunity for daters to generate revenue. Some platforms even provide users with the functionality to purchase virtual gifts which have real monetary value.

Needless to say, these kinds of activities continue to raise questions about users’ authenticity: in terms of dating in pursuit of love. This is why, over the last decade, many industries have made a conscious move towards authenticity – in order to build better brand trust. The dating industry is no different, especially since – despite exponential growth – there are still major retention and engagement issues.

Video offers that sense of authenticity, particularly as we’re now so accustomed to communicating with trusted friends and family via live video.

Dating also has universal appeal, even to people already in committed relationships. There is an undeniable voyeuristic aspect to watching a dating show or watching live streamed daters. And of course there are inherent safety risks in that.

Like other interactive social technologies, the livestream dating trend carries its own intrinsic dangers in terms of mental health and user experience. And just like any other interactive social media, there are always going to be users who are there to make inappropriate comments and harass people.

That’s where content moderation comes into play.

 

So How Can Content Moderation Support Safer Dating?

One-to-one video dating and livestream dating is happening right now. Who knows where they will evolve?

Setting your brand apart in an already crowded dating industry is becoming more complicated in a time when social media technologies are rapidly evolving. How will you stay ahead of the curve and keep your users safe?

Of course, video moderation is not the only challenge you’re going to face. The associated unwanted user-generated content that goes with running an online dating platform includes:

  • Romance scams
  • prostitution
  • online harassment
  • catfishing
  • profanity
  • nudity
  • image quality
  • underaged users
  • escort promotion.

After all, brand trust means a better user experience. And a better user experience increases user lifetime value – and revenue.

On average, 1 in 10 dating profiles created is fake. Scammers and inappropriate content hurt your platform’s reliability. Left unanswered, undesirable content undermines user trust and can take a heavy toll on your acquisition and retention.

– but it does mean taking a leap in terms of your overall digital transformation strategy, and adding AI and machine learning to your service.

With an all-in-one package from Besedo, you can get your content moderation in order across multiple areas. It’s built on over 20 years experience and now has manual video moderation capabilities.

This means you can now review play, pause, timestamp and volume control videos. More importantly you can delete videos which don’t meet your site’s standards for user-generated content. Take a look at our short video guide to discover more.

 

Make dating online safer. Find out more about working with us and request a demo today.

 

Martin Wåhlstrand

By Martin Wåhlstrand

Regional Sales Director – Americas

Why creating sustainable growth means looking beyond the digital present

Over the past decade, it has become common to suggest that every company is now a tech company.

The exponential growth in digital usage quickly outgrew what we traditionally think of as the technology sector and, for users, the agility of the internet didn’t stay confined to the online world. Technology has shifted expectations about how everything can or should work. Soon, companies selling everything from furniture to financial services started to look and act more like innovative tech companies. They find new ways to solve old problems through digital channels.

In other words, business leaders seeking to guarantee growth turned to digital technology – to the point that, now, the Chief Technology Officer is a key part of the C-suite.

After a year when we’ve all relied on the internet more than ever, in every aspect of our lives, growth through digital has never been more apparent. For business, digital communication has at times been the only possible way of staying in touch with customers, and there’s no sign that the CEO’s focus on agility and technology is fading. In recent surveys, IBM found that 56% of CEOs are ‘aggressively pursuing operational agility and flexibility’, PwC found that they see cyber threats as the second biggest risk to business, and Deloitte found that 85% think the pandemic accelerated digital transformation.

If the exponential growth of digital has made every company a technology company, though, it has also made terms like ‘technology’ and ‘agility’ less useful. If every CEO is pursuing a digital strategy, that term must be encompassing a vast range of different ideas. As we look towards the next decade of growth – focused on managing the challenge of achieving more responsible and sustainable business along the way – we will need to think carefully about what comes next once digitalisation is universal.

Supercharged tech growth has skyrocketed user-generated content

Of course, the importance of agile technology has never been the tech itself, but what people do with it. For customers we’ve seen tech innovation create new ways of talking, direct access to brands, and large changes in how we consume media and make purchases.

As digital channels take on a greater share of activity than ever, one of the effects of an exponential growth in digital is an exponential growth in user-generated content (UGC).

This user-led interaction, from product reviews to marketplace listings to social interactions, fully embodies the agility that companies have spent the last decade trying to bring to their processes; because it is made by people, UGC is rapid, diverse, and flexible by default. While it may be too soon to say that every business will become a content business, it’s clear that this will become an increasingly important part of how businesses operate. Certainly, it’s already a major driving force for sectors as diverse as marketplaces, gaming, and dating.

A UGC business must be protected to maximise opportunity

In the move towards UGC, a business’s user interaction and user experience will have consequences across the organisation – from profit margin, to brand positioning, to reputational risk, to technological infrastructure. Across all of these, there will be a need to uphold users’ trust that content is being employed responsibly, that they are being protected from malign actors, and that their input is being used for their benefit. Turning content into sustainable growth, then, is a task that needs to be addressed across the company, not confined to any one business function.

Marketers, for instance, have benefited from digitalisation’s capacity to make the customer experience richer and more useful – but it has also introduced an element of unpredictability in user interactions. When communities are managed and shaped, marketers need to ensure that those efforts produce a public face in line with the company’s ethos and objectives.

While tech teams need to enable richer user interaction, their rapid ascent to become a core business function has left them under pressure to everything, everywhere. Their innovation in how content is managed, therefore, needs a middle path between the unsustainable workload of in-house development and the unsustainable compromises of off-the-shelf tooling.

With the ultimate outcomes of building user trust being measured in terms of things like brand loyalty and lifetime user value, finance departments will also need to adapt to this form of customer relationship. The creation of long-term financial health needs investments and partnerships which truly understand how the relationship between businesses and customers is changing.

UGC as a vital asset for sustainable business growth

Bringing this all together will be the task needed to create sustainable growth – growth which is fit for and competitive in the emerging context of UGC, sensitive to the increasing caution that users will have around trusting businesses, and transparent about the organisations ethos, purpose, and direction. It will require not just investing in technology, but understanding how tech is leading us to a more interactive economy at every scale.

As digitalisation continues to widen and deepen, we may find UGC, and the trust it requires, becoming just as vital an asset for businesses as product stock or intellectual property. To prepare for that future and maximise their business growth from their UGC, businesses need to start thinking and planning today.

Petter Nylander - Besedo CEO

By Petter Nylander

CEO Besedo Global Services

If you keep your eye on content moderation as we do, you’ll be aware that the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) is on the road to being passed, after the European Commission submitted its proposals for legislation last December.

You’ll also know, of course, that the last year has been a tumultuous time for online content. Between governments trying to communicate accurately about the pandemic, a tumultuous US election cycle, and a number of protest movements moving from social media to the streets, it’s felt like a week hasn’t passed without online content – and how to moderate it – hitting the headlines.

All of which makes the DSA (though at least partly by accident) extremely well-timed. With expectations that it will overhaul the rules and responsibilities for online businesses around user-generated content, EU member states will be keen to ensure that it offers an effective response to what many are coming to see as the dangers of unmanaged online discourse, without hindering the benefits of digitalized society that we’ve all come to rely on.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about the DSA. As it is reviewed and debated by the European Council and the European Parliament, changes might be made to everything from its definition of illegal content to the breadth of companies that are affected by each of its various new obligations. It’s absolutely clear, though, that businesses will be affected by the DSA – and not only the ‘Very Large Platforms’ like Google and Facebook which are expected to be most heavily targeted.

Many people looking at the DSA will instinctively think back to the last time the EU made significant new law around online business with the GDPR. The impact of that regulation is still growing, with larger fines being levied year-on-year, but it’s perhaps more important that internet users’ sense of what companies can or should do with data has been shifted by the GDPR. Likewise, the DSA will alter the terrain for all online businesses, and many industries will have to do some big thinking over the coming years as the act moves towards being agreed upon.

Content moderation, of course, is our expertise here at Besedo, and making improvements to how content is managed will be a big part of how businesses adapt to the DSA. That’s why we decided to help get this conversation started by finding out how businesses are currently thinking about it. Surveying UK-based businesses with operations in the EU across the retail, IT, and media sectors, we wanted to take the temperature of firms that will be at the forefront of the upcoming changes.

We found that, while the act is clearly on everyone’s radar, there is a lot of progress to be made if businesses are to get fully prepared. Nearly two-thirds of our respondents, for example, knew that the DSA is a wide-ranging set of rules which applies beyond social media or big tech. However, a similar proportion stated that they understand what will be defined as ‘illegal content’ under the act – despite the fact that that definition is yet to be finalized.

Encouragingly, we also found that 88% of respondents are confident that they will be ready for the DSA when it comes into force. For most, that will mean changing their approach to moderation: 92% told us that achieving compliance will involve upgrading their moderation systems, their processes, or both.

As the DSA is discussed, debated, and decided, we’ll continue to look at numbers like these and invite companies together to talk about how we can all make the internet a safer, fairer place for all its users. If you’d like to get involved or want insight on what’s coming down the road, our new research report, ‘Are you ready for the Digital Services Act?’, is the perfect place to start.

Over the past 2 decades, we’ve seen a ton of in-house tools created to support content moderators in the important task to keep users safe.

While these tools have mostly been created by very talented developers, it has also often been evident that the team behind them has not been able to put the time and resources into creating optimized moderation solutions. Likely because they’ve made the smart business decision to prioritize developing new features or polish for their core product. The platform their users use.

The problem is that the trade-off comes back to impact end-users at some point. Ineffective moderation processes (caused by unwieldy tools) will ultimately mean users get a worse user experience and substandard service.

Obviously, in-house tools vary wildly in features, capacity, and user-friendliness, but over the years we’ve come across 5 features that we regularly see in-house tools lacking.

March marks the 1-year anniversary of WHO declaring Covid 19 a global pandemic. While vaccines are now being rolled out and a return to normality is inching closer, online trade is still heavily influenced and characterized by a year in and out of lockdown. And so are the content moderation challenges we meet in our day-to-day work with platforms across the globe.

Shortage in graphics cards increases electronic frauds.

Whether for work or entertainment, being homebound has caused people to shop for desktop computers at a level we haven’t seen for a decade. For the past 10 years, mobile-first has been preached by any business advisor worth listening to, but lockdowns have given desktop computers a surprising comeback and increased demands for PC parts.

The increased interest in PCs combined with the late 2020 release of the new console generation and the reduced production caused by pandemic mandated lockdowns has created an unexpected niche for scammers.

Google trend for buying graphics cardWe’re currently seeing a worldwide shortage of graphic cards, needed for both consoles and desktop computers and scammers haven’t wasted a second to jump on the opportunity.

In March we’ve seen a significant increase in fraud cases related to graphics cards with gaming capabilities. In some cases, more than 50% of fraud cases we deal with have been related to graphics cards.

Puppy scams are still sky-high.

In March we post-reviewed puppy scams on 6 popular online marketplaces in the UK. We found that almost 50% of live listings showed signs of being fraudulent.

Pet trade has exploded since the beginning of the pandemic and scammers are still trying to take advantage of those looking for new furry family members.

Sleeper accounts awaken.

Our moderators warn that this month they’ve seen an increase in sleeper accounts engaging in Trojan scams. The accounts post a low-risk item, then lays dormant for a while before they start posting high-value items. The method is used to circumvent moderation setups that only moderate the first items posted by new accounts.

High-risk items posted by these accounts are often expensive electronics in high demand, such as cameras or the Nintendo Switch.

April is looking to be an interesting month in terms of content moderation challenges. With many countries tentatively opening up and others concerned about a 3rd wave, we recommend that all marketplace owners keep a close eye on corona-related scams. From masks to fake vaccines and a potential incoming surge of forged corona passports staying alert, up to date, and keeping your moderators educated will be as important as ever.

If you need help reviewing your content moderation setup or are looking for an experienced team to take it off your hands, we’re here to help.

Whether you’re running an online marketplace, classifieds site, or sharing economy platform you’ll want to optimize so you can manage User Generated Content (UGC) quickly and effectively.

Unfortunately, the larger you scale, and the more users you gain, the harder this becomes. There are always going to be users who abuse your trust – whether they’re posting poor-quality photographs or uploading content with malicious or fraudulent intent.

Moderating content is a complex and constantly evolving process that requires a carefully blended package of tech and human expertise to protect your platform’s trust, content quality, and user experience. Creating that takes time, effort, and know-how. Or in other words, you’ll need to invest a lot of money and resources if you want to build your own tools and processes in-house.

No “One Size Fits All” Solution

Depending on the size and nature of your organization, you’re going to need to manage content moderation in your own unique way – and those solutions are going to need scalability so that your business can grow.

If content moderation itself isn’t your core business, setting it up in-house is going to divert resources away from what’s most important to you.

That’s not to say content moderation isn’t important – far from it. In the last couple of years, you’ll have no doubt heard the debate surrounding social media giants like Facebook outsourcing their content moderation.

There have been calls to bring that process in-house, as detractors argue that outsourcing such a central business function devalues its importance. However, it’s also been highlighted that a more effective content moderation solution in a large social media business like Facebook would require double the number of human moderators.

Choosing the Right In-house Approach to Content Moderation

Most content moderation solutions blend human and AI moderators. But what are the actual costs involved in setting it up in-house?

Broadly speaking, you’ll need to account for the annual costs of staffing a moderation team plus the associated software and equipment required. Because content moderation is unique to every site, there are also going to be AI development and production costs. Let’s break it down.

Before deciding on the right content moderation strategy, you need to know the five methods at your disposal to enhance and secure your online business.

  1. Manual Pre-Moderation: Using a set of guidelines, all user-submitted content is screened by a moderator before it goes live on your site.
  2. Manual Post-Moderation: Content that goes live to your site and is then checked afterward by a moderator. This is commonly used on community-based platforms.
  3. Reactive Moderation: Users report or flag inappropriate or offensive content on your site. It should only be used to supplement other forms of moderation.
  4. Distributed Moderation: Leave your content moderation to the community itself, allowing them to control it using rating and voting systems.
  5. Automated Moderation: Filters and tools which automatically moderate specific content. They need continuous review by a human moderator to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

For a more in-depth account of these processes, read our blog on 5 Moderation Methods.

Staffing Content Moderation In-house

If you’re investing in content moderation in-house, there are a number of cost factors to consider.

You might have already considered the expenditure needed for salary and periods of downtime. Of course, that’s after you’ve recruited, trained, and onboarded suitably skilled content moderation staff. You’ll also need to factor in admin support, responsibility for filter management, and leadership.

The salaries for a tech team are going to include (but are not exclusively limited to):

  • Front-end developer
  • Back-end developer
  • DevOps and Sysadmin to support developers and the platform running.
  • Data scientist (where machine learning is needed)
  • QA engineer for testing
  • Project/Product manager

If your content moderation team is based remotely, you’ll also need to ensure the right security and communication systems are in place. Continuous training will also be needed – to align your content moderation with policy changes and to address quality control.

As with any new hire, you’ll also need to consider the costs associated with performance management as well as shrinkage and shift management. For example, you might need seasonal flexibility, or your business may be suddenly forced to move your entire operation to a work from home setup. Are you prepared for that and the security issues that goes with it?

Redundancy is never good PR and best avoided. So, what’s the best hiring solution for your content moderation needs?

Investing in Tech for In-house Content Moderation

We’ve considered staffing. So, what about the tech needed for in-house content moderation?

One of the most important – yet undervalued components – of content moderation is the control panel and its maintenance. Often considered a lower priority than user-facing features, a control panel is essential for moderation staff to do their job effectively.

If there’s no dedicated team responsible for maintaining the control panel it usually falls to product and site development teams – who will always have other priorities. As a result, there can sometimes be internal battles for developers’ time.

This leads to upgrades being delayed and moderators reporting that control panels are outdated and do not work properly. This can negatively impact moderation efficiency.

Furthermore, ineffective content moderation can damage retention and your brand. There’s strong evidence to suggest it reduces conversions – stunting growth. You’ll also see an increase in customer support costs: as dissatisfaction results in higher levels of customer contact.

Hosting a control panel in-house carries further additional costs. If the team or person who built-it leaves or is unavailable who will you turn to for support? Not only do you have the design and maintenance to account for, but you’ve also got the added burden of automation and filter oversight to consider.

An effective control panel requires regular updates to increase productivity, accuracy, and compliance. If it’s too cumbersome you may be faced with poor productivity and encounter problems with staff retention. There also needs to be a cohesive way of reporting and integrate with the back-end team.

Reasons to Outsource Content Moderation

Fraudsters are innovative. Content moderation needs to be preemptive as well as responsive. Even with an in-house team in place, there are also ongoing costs to consider.

With any service, there needs to be enough capacity to improve existing services and scope for fast-paced improvements.

However, the quality of moderation you receive depends on who you outsource it to. Like any outsourced function, you need to be sure you’re getting the best value and return on investment.

Businesses tend to operate globally these days, but that still means understanding the culture and market for individual countries you’re operating in. And for that, you may need native speakers or at least people with a native understanding of the culture.

Why? Because there can be significant cultural differences which require sensitivity depending on where you are in the world you are. What’s deemed offensive in one territory may not be so in another. You need local expertise.

In addition, every technological advance brings new challenges to content moderation. As an example, let’s take recent developments in machine learning such as Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN).

Essentially, GAN can create new data from training data. So, it can ‘learn’ from photographs to create new photographs. In terms of human image synthesis, this has resulted in misuse to create deep fakes.

Does your business have the budget and scalability to constantly keep up with new content moderation challenges? If not, then what’s the solution?

Implio: The All-In-One Moderation Tool

Getting content moderation right for your business is a complicated matter. With an off-the-shelf tool like Besedo’s Implio you’ve got instantly up-to-date content moderation expertise and technology right out the box.

Considering switching to an off-the-shelf solution? We’ve created this handy checklist to help you. And if you’re still not convinced about the benefits of outsourcing your content moderation, why not take a look at our white paper to see how outsourcing can help free up resources?

If you have decided to see what Besedo can do for you, find out how to manage a smooth migration with our cheat sheet

Responsible & Transparent Partnerships

At Besedo, we’ve been working with businesses like yours for over 19 years. Since 2002, we’ve offered content moderation insight and foresight to our partners based on trends and the vast pool of data that we handle.

To give you an idea of scale, we review over 570 million pieces of content and block nearly 40 million fraud and scam attempts every year. You’re proud of your product and we’re passionate about giving your end-users the best possible experience in a safe environment.

Rather than outsourcing your customer support, think of us as an extension to your team. With 350 employees from 20 over different nationalities, we’re a global and multi-cultural company who can help with localized expertise.

We provide tailored content moderation strategies and solutions to suit your businesses’ needs. You know your site best, but if you’re seeking a second opinion, we can even consult with you to identify the strongest setup for your needs.

Want to see how we can help? Find out more about working with us and request a demo today.

It’s been a long time since social media was simply a recreational diversion for its users. While the early days of social networks were dominated by the excitement of reconnecting with old school friends and staying in touch with distant relatives, they have continued to grow rapidly, and in the process have become embedded in every aspect of society.

Today, it’s unremarkable to hear a tweet being read out on the news – fifteen years ago when Twitter was founded, having social media form part of current affairs reporting would have been unimaginable. This growth has been so fast that it’s easy to believe that we have hit a ceiling and that these platforms couldn’t take center stage any more strongly than they already have.

Even though we’re just a couple of months in, 2021 is shaping up to be a year which, once again, proves that belief wrong. The fact that the gravitational pull of social media on the rest of the world is continuing to grow has enormous consequences for businesses: not just the platforms themselves, but every business that deals with user-generated content.

Content moderation: a high priority with high stakes

Late last year, Gartner predicted that “30% of large organizations will identify content moderation services for user-generated content as a C-suite priority” by 2024. It’s not hard to guess why it was on their radar. All of the biggest global stories of 2020 were marked, in one way or another, by the influence of social media.

Facing the pandemic, governments across the world needed to communicate vital health information with their citizens and turned to social media as a fast, effective channel – as did conspiracy theorists and fraudsters. Over the summer, Black Lives Matter protests swept America and spread globally, sparked by a viral video and driven by online organizing. Later in the year, the drama of the US Presidential election happened as much on Facebook and Twitter as it did on American doorsteps and the nightly news.

Across these events, and more, businesses have been at pains to communicate the right things in the right ways, always aware that missteps (even the mishandling of interactions with members of the public whose communication they cannot influence) will be publicized and indelible. As Gartner summarises, social media is “besieged by polarizing content, [and] brand advertisers are increasingly concerned about brand safety and reputational risk on these platforms”.

This year, social is driving the agenda

Content moderation is therefore becoming an essential tool for operating (as almost all companies now do) online. However, while the suggestion that it will rise to be a priority for 30% of C-suites over the next three years certainly isn’t modest, it already feels like Gartner was perhaps thinking too small.

We have since seen an attack on the US Capitol which was, in large part, organized by users on Parler; a mini-crisis on Wall Street spontaneously emerging from conversations on Reddit; and, most recently, an argument between Facebook and the Australian government which resulted in a number of official COVID-19 communications pages on the platform being temporarily blocked.

These are not just social media reactions to ongoing external stories – they are events driven by social media, with user-generated content at their heart. The power of social platforms to affect people, businesses and society at large have not peaked yet.

That’s the context that the UK’s Online Safety Bill and the EU’s Digital Services Act are emerging into, promising to apply new rules and give governments greater influence. As we wait for such legislation to come into force, however, there are immediate questions to consider: how should social platforms move forward, and how should businesses mitigate their own risks?

The path forward for content moderation

These are fraught questions. One reason for the reticence of social media giants to speak openly about content moderation may be that, simply, outlining new processes for ensuring user safety could be taken as an admission of past failure. Another is that content moderation is too often seen as being just one small, careless step away from censorship – which is an outcome nobody wants to see. For businesses that rely on social, meanwhile, handling a flood of content across multiple platforms and their own sites can quickly become overwhelming and unmanageable.

For all of these challenges, the best way forward starts with having a more open conversation. Social media companies and other businesses founded on user-generated content, such as dating and marketplaces, have so far tended to be fairly quiet about innovating new content moderation approaches. We can say from experience, however, that in private many such businesses are actively seeking new technology and smarter approaches. As with any common goal, collaboration and shared learning would benefit all partners here.

It’s encouraging to see partnerships like the Global Alliance for Responsible Media sowing the seeds of these conversations, but more is needed. For our part, Besedo believes that the right technology and processes can make censorship-free moderation a reality. This is not just about the technical definition of censorship: it’s about online spaces that feel fair, allowing free speech but not hate speech within clear rules.

We also believe that good moderation will spread the benefits of social media and user-generated content to everyone. Ultimately, this is now a key part of how we buy, learn, work, and live, and everyone from multinationals to small businesses to end-users need it to be safe. Finding new ways to answer the challenges of harmful content is in everyone’s best interests.

Amongst all of this, of course, one thing is certain: in 2021, content moderation will not be missing from anyone’s radar.

Every month we collect insights; from the clients, we work with, through external audits, and from mystery shopping on popular marketplaces across the world. The goal is to understand current global trends; within online marketplace scam, fraud, and other content challenges and to track how it evolves and changes over time.

The information is shared with clients and internally in our operations with our teams. Recurring trends are also used in the training of new content moderation specialists and to build new generic filters for Implio and to support the training of AI models.

Here’s an overview of some of February’s moderation trends:

 

Courier frauds increased by 107%

In February we saw a concerning increase in “courier frauds” with 107% more compared to normal levels. Courier fraud is a scammer pretending to be interested in buying an item, then asking the seller to register at a fake courier site. Once the victim has registered, they’re asked to share their credit card information. To circumvent moderation, scammers often redirect the conversation of the marketplace and the scam is performed through offline communication platforms like WhatsApp. However, with good moderation processes and awareness of how the fraudsters operate, users can be protected.

 

New console releases are still a major scam driver.

Together with cell phones, which remains the top targeted category for scammers with 39% of all scams, consoles are still leading the challenge by constituting 24.66% of fraudulent cases. Most scams in these 2 categories are tied to the release of the new iPhone and the launch of PlayStation 5. After rumors started floating around of a new Nintendo Switch release in 2021, we’ve also begun seeing scams related to the popular handheld console.

 

Marketplaces now a hub for exam cheats.

As lockdowns make physical tests an impossibility, we’ve seen a surge of offers to take tests and exams on behalf of others.

While the offers themselves may be genuine, the practice is unethical and if discovered could lead to students being expelled and a devaluation of the educational system. As such we generally recommend removing listings advertising these sorts of services.

 

Valentine’s Day scammers tried to be extra cuddly.

During the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, we did an audit of 6 popular, non-client marketplaces and saw a worrying number of scams. In particular, puppy scams were abundant. In one instance 90% of all puppy listings were fraudulent. The issue isn’t only limited to Valentine’s Day either.

search trend for buy puppy

Due to pandemic enforced social distancing and recurring lockdowns, there’s been a rise in pet purchases over the past year and scammers are taking advantage. As such it pays to stay vigilant and keep an extra focus on pet-related listings and categories.

With this quick overview of current trends, we hope to provide you with the tools needed to focus your content moderation efforts where they’re most needed. If you would like input specifically for your site, feel free to reach out.

Every year people flock to online marketplaces to look for presents for their significant others. This year’s ‘lockdown’ Valentine’s Day will be no different, in fact, more people than ever are likely to shop online. As such it’s important that marketplaces remain vigilant and have the right processes in place to protect their end-users from fraudulent products and sellers during a spike in sales. Especially this year where there will be an influx of buyers, who aren’t accustomed to online shopping and as such may more easily fall victim to scammers.

To give a snapshot of the risks and how dangerous it is to purchase your Valentine’s gift online this year, we’ve investigated listings of popular items on online marketplaces. After analyzing nearly three thousand listings in the run-up to this year’s Valentine’s Day, we’ve found that:

  • 13% of items reviewed showed signs of being fraudulent or dangerous
  • Of particular concern were the newly launched PlayStation 5 and offers of puppies, where 30% and 25% of listings across all marketplaces were found to be fraudulent, respectively
  • 22% of listings for popular consumer tech, such as the iPhone 12 were also deemed fraudulent
  • 1 in 10 Louis Vuitton Perfume listings were found to be either scams or counterfeit goods
  • 17% of Creed perfume listings on one popular auction website were found to be fraudulent

The research shows that even after any filtering and user protection measures that these marketplaces have, a significant number of the products for sale are leaving shoppers open to losing their money or receiving fake goods.

When it comes to typical romantic gifts such as perfumes and beauty products, the buyer’s inability to touch and see items whilst online shopping means that it is easier for scammers to get away with selling fake items. 14% of Louis Vuitton Perfume listings were found to be either scams or counterfeit goods. Creed perfume is also a popular target and on one popular auction website we found that up to 17% of Creed perfume listings were fraudulent.

Perhaps most worrying, however, are the listings for puppies. Pets are always a careful purchase, and much more meaningful to the couples that get them for Valentine’s Day than consumer products. Out of the 250 listings for puppy purchases that Besedo reviewed in January and February, 25% were found to be scams.

 

How to protect your users during Lockdown Valentine’s Day and beyond?

In our experience, Valentine’s Day scams start picking up 2-3 weeks before the 14th of February and taper off on the day.

While many of the items targeted by scammers during the Valentine’s period overlap with goods they’d generally use to prey on unsuspecting victims, there are things you can do to increase security for users under the duration of the event.

  • Monitor popular electronics extra vigilantly
  • Publish targeted guidelines teaching users how to spot and avoid scams
  • Put extra focus on onsite chat messages between users. Scammers may use 1to1 messages to send fake online greeting cards that link to malicious programs or to flirt with lonely and vulnerable users to get personal information or monetary gains.
  • Rentals for romantic getaways. Although this year with many countries in lockdown we expect to see less activity here.

On top of scammers, there’s also a risk of rising in services or goods you may not want on your marketplace.

Keep an eye out for:

  • A rise in sex toys and adult movies and services
  • Detective services aimed at catching significant others in the act of cheating

Whether you want to allow these services on your site depends on your audience, but it’s worth monitoring to maintain control.

To learn more read the article 4 ways to keep your users safe online this valentine’s day.

Download the Valentine’s Day Scam Infographic

If you need help improving your content moderation processes, get in touch with our team.

From dating sites and online marketplaces to social media and video games – content moderation has a huge remit of responsibility.

It’s the job of both AI and human content moderators to ensure the material being shared is not illegal or inappropriate: always acting in the best interest of the end-users.

And if you’re getting the content right for your end-users, they’re going to want to return and hopefully bring others with them. But is content moderation actually a form of censorship?

If every piece of content added to a platform is checked and scrutinized – isn’t ‘moderation’ essentially just ‘policing’? Surely, it’s the enemy of free speech?

Well actually, no. Let’s consider the evidence.

 

Moderating content vs censoring citizens

Content moderation is not a synonym for censorship. In fact, they’re two different concepts.

Back in 2016, we looked at this in-depth in our Is Moderation Censorship? article – which explains the relationship between content moderation and censorship. It also gives some great advice on empowering end-users so that they don’t feel censored.

But is it really that important in the wider scheme of things?

Well, content moderation continues to make headline news due to the actions taken by high-profile social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, against specific users – including, but not limited to, the former US President.

There’s a common misconception that the actions taken by these privately-owned platforms constitute censorship. In the US, this can be read as a violation of the First Amendment rights in relation to free speech. However, the key thing to remember here is that the First Amendment protects citizens against government censorship.

That’s not to say privately-owned platforms have an inalienable right to censorship, but it does mean that they’re not obliged to host material deemed unsuitable for their community and end-users.

The content moderation being enacted by these companies is based on their established community standards and typically involves:

  • Blocking harmful or hate-related content
  • Fact-checking
  • Labeling content correctly
  • Removing potentially damaging disinformation
  • Demonetizing pages by removing paid ads and content

These actions have invariably impacted individual users because that’s the intent – to mitigate content which breaks the platform’s community standards. In fact, when you think about it, making a community a safe place to communicate actually increases the opportunity for free speech.

“Another way to think about content moderation is to imagine an online platform as a real world community – like a school or church. The question to ask is always: would this way of behaving be acceptable within my community?”

It’s the same with online platforms. Each one has its own community standards. And that’s okay.

 

Content curators – Still culpable?

Putting it another way, social media platforms are in fact curators of content – as are online marketplaces and classified sites. When you consider the volume of content being created, uploaded, and shared monitoring it is no easy feat. Take, for example, YouTube. As of May 2019, Statista reported that in excess of 500 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s just over three weeks of content per minute!

These content sharing platforms actually have a lot in common with art galleries and museums. The items and artworks in these public spaces are not created by the museum owners themselves –they’re curated for the viewing public and given contextual information.

That means the museums and galleries share the content but they’re not liable for it.

However, an important point to consider is, if you’re sharing someone else’s content there’s an element of responsibility. As a gallery owner, you’ll want to ensure it doesn’t violate your values as an organization and community. And like online platforms, art curators should have the right to take down material deemed to be objectionable. They’re not saying you can’t see this painting; they’re saying, if you want to see this painting you’ll need to go to a different gallery.

 

What’s the benefit of content moderation to my business?

To understand the benefits of content moderation, let’s look at the wider context and some of the reasons why online platforms use content moderation to help maintain and generate growth.

Firstly, we need to consider the main reason for employing content moderation. Content moderation exists to protect users from harm. Each website or platform will have its own community of users and its own priorities in terms of community guidelines.

“Where there is an opportunity for the sharing of user-generated content, there is the potential for misuse. To keep returning to a platform or website, users need to feel a sense of trust. They need to feel safe.”

Content moderation can help to build that trust and safety by checking posts and flagging inappropriate content. Our survey of UK and US users showed that even on a good classified listing site, one-third of users still felt some degree of mistrust.

Secondly, ensuring users see the right content at the right time is essential for keeping them on a site. Again, in relation to the content of classified ads, our survey revealed that almost 80% of users would not return to the site where an ad lacking relevant content was posted – nor would they recommend it to others. In effect, this lack of relevant information was the biggest reason for users clicking away from a website. Content moderation can help with this too.

Say you run an online marketplace for second-hand cars, you don’t want it to suddenly be flooded with pictures of cats. In a recent example from the social media site Reddit, the subreddit r/worldpolitics started getting flooded with inappropriate pictures because the community was tired of it being dominated by posts about American politics and that moderators were frequently ignoring posts that were deliberately intended to gain upvotes. Moderating and removing the inappropriate pictures isn’t censorship, it’s directing the conversation back to what the community originally was about.

Thirdly, content moderation can help to mitigate against scams and other illegal content. Our survey also found that 72% of users who saw inappropriate behavior on a site did not return.

A prime example of inappropriate behavior is hate speech. Catching it can be a tricky business due to coded language and imagery. However, our blog about identifying hate speech on dating sites gives three great tips for dealing with it:

 

Three ways to regulate content

A good way to imagine content moderation is to view it as one of three forms of regulation. This is a model that’s gained a lot of currency recently and it really helps to explain the role of content moderation.

Firstly, let’s start with discretion. In face-to-face interactions, most people will tend to pick up on social cues and social contexts which causes them to self-regulate. For example, not swearing in front of young children. This is personal discretion.

When a user posts or shares content, they’re making a personal choice to do so. Hopefully, for many users discretion will also come into play: will what I’m about to post cause offense or harm to others? Do I want others to feel offended?

Discretion tells you not to do or say certain things in certain contexts. We all get it wrong sometimes, but self-regulation is the first step in content moderation.

Secondly, at the other end of the scale, we have censorship. By definition, censorship is the suppression or prohibition of speech or materials deemed obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

Censorship has government-imposed law behind it and carries the message that the censored material is unacceptable in any context because the government and law deem it to be so.

Thirdly, in the middle of both of these, we have content moderation.

“Unlike censorship, content moderation empowers private organizations to establish community guidelines for their sites and demand that users seeking to express their viewpoints are consistent with that particular community’s expectations.”

This might include things like flagging harmful misinformation, eliminating obscenity, removing hate speech, and protecting public safety. Content moderation is discretion at an organizational level – not a personal one.

Content moderation is about saying what you can and can’t do in a particular online social context.

 

So what can Besedo do to help moderate your content?

  • Keep your community on track
  • Facilitate the discussion you’ve built your community for (your house, your rules)
  • Allow free speech, but not hate speech
  • Protect monetization
  • Keep the platform within legal frameworks
  • Keep a positive, safe, and engaging community

All things considered, content moderation is a safeguard. It upholds the ‘trust contract’ users and site owners enter into. It’s about protecting users, businesses, and maintaining relevance.

The internet’s a big place and there’s room for everyone.

To find out more about what we can do for your online business contact our team today.

If you want to learn more about content moderation, take a look at our handy guide. In the time it takes to read, another 4,000 YouTube videos will have been uploaded!