How to Create Social Media Moderation Guidelines
“Because it’s there” were British climber George Mallory’s words when asked why he wished to climb Mount Everest. The same year, in August, Mallory, who has mythical status in the world of climbing, and climbing partner Andrew Irvine, disappeared from the mountain. Some say on the way to the peak, others say on the way back, potentially making them the first to have set foot on the highest peak in the world. Of course, the first recorded and documented ascent was by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in the fifties and they are recognized as the first.
“Because it’s there” might also be the response of the billions of users of social media when asked why they are on social media or why they use it. And posts like “Had breakfast, feeling Good” or photoshopped pictures of a vacation in an aspirational, expensive destination, might have fuelled some of the speculation regarding the relevance of social media. Whether serving a useful purpose or not, social media has taken over the world like a force of nature and now is a fact of our lives, and no longer a choice.
oWorkers has been there, too. In over seven years of providing data based BPO services to global clients, it has earned several accolades, including being counted as one of the three best BPO services providers in the world, in its category. Its leadership team, which has over 20 years of hands-on experience in the industry, continuously looks for newer peaks to climb in their effort to lead the team to greater heights.
Requirement for social media moderation guidelines
Climbing Everest was one of the ultimate feats of human endeavor. Like rowing solo across the Pacific Ocean. Or sledding across Antarctica to reach the geographic South Pole. Or swimming the length of the Amazon river. But that was then, when Everest was a fabled presence, deep in the wilderness, across unpopulated wilderness of rural Nepal on one side and Tibet on the other, the tallest peak as the Himalayas majestically rose from the plains across Northern India and Nepal and then plateaued out into Tibet.
Today it is a commercial venture. If you have the money and the desire, ante up and you will be on the next hypersonic pathway to the top in a few years, since bookings apparently run that long. But that is what it is. The unfortunate outcome of the traffic has been the desecration of the mountain, with towns and communication towers being set up and discarded equipment like used oxygen cylinders defiling the mountain face. The result is that rules have needed to be set up so that climbers are aware of the dos and don’ts. Not just that, periodic cleaning attempts have to be undertaken so that such equipment neither becomes a danger for other climbers nor creates an ecological disaster in the future.
The birth of social media is generally traced back to the creation of Facebook, which was apparently coded by its founder Mark Zuckerberg in his dorm in Harvard. It had a purpose when it was created, of enabling students to connect with each other in a non-intrusive way. And that remains. It continues to be a non-intrusive way of connecting with other people, no longer limited to student communities. Its use has spread like wildfire across the world, on the wings of the rapidly spreading reach of the internet, and encouraged the birth of many other social media platforms in its wake.
No longer limited to a reasonably homogeneous community, as happened in the case of Everest, increased usage appears to have introduced malpractices in social media usage that the world has been forced to sit up and take notice of. Large numbers sometimes give the feeling of safety, of being hidden in a large crowd, which can encourage people to be obnoxious. That is perhaps what has happened with social media. Sitting in their own dark corner of the world, communicating only with machines, and not real people who can talk back, some people feel powerful and perpetrate content on an unsuspecting population that is designed to push their agenda and spread discomfort and strife in the rest. Whether it is spreading messages of hate against a community, glorifying violence and posting gory images, sharing pornographic videos, anything is possible. Civil society does not look kindly upon such content for open access.
The result has been the birth of what we know as social media moderation, that seeks to head off offensive content before it can reach the masses, accompanied by social media moderation guidelines.
oWorkers has been involved in social media moderation from the get go. Its relationships with technology companies has enabled it to access cutting-edge technology for its work. This works in favor of clients as it is for client work that these technologies are used. As a GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified company, it creates confidence in clients about the security of their data.
What do social media moderation guidelines look like?
Expectation setting is one of the basic principles in society. When a person signs up on a social media platform (an account creation is always required), since the platform has been put up, and presumably is inviting participation by making it open and accessible, at the first step it is the responsibility of the platform to provide a clear understanding of its rules and regulations so that the user can know what she is signing up for. If unhappy with what she sees, she is free to walk away. The platform is not in any way forcing her to participate. But once she signs up, the expectation is that she understands the regulations and agrees to abide by them.
It might be instructive to look at the guidelines of Facebook, the largest social media platform, with over 2 billion users, almost 30% of humanity.
Facebook divides its guidelines into sections, presumably for ease of access and in order that bite-sized chunks can be accessed at one time. While there are many policies and guidelines they publish, we will focus on a few that, based on their title and classification, appear to relate to offensive content. They list them down under the following sections:
- Violence and Incitement
- Dangerous Individuals and Organizations
- Coordinating Harm and Publicizing Crime
- Regulated Goods
- Suicide and Self-Injury
- Child Sexual Exploitation
- Abuse and Nudity
- Sexual Exploitation of Adults
- Bullying and Harassment
- Privacy Violations
- Hate Speech
- Graphic Content
- Nudity and Sexual Activity
- Sexual Solicitation
To understand it a little better, here is a section explaining why they have put the Violence and Incitement policy in place:
“We aim to prevent potential offline harm that may be related to content on Facebook. While we understand that people commonly express disdain or disagreement by threatening or calling for violence in non-serious ways, we remove language that incites or facilitates serious violence. We remove content, disable accounts and work with law enforcement when we believe that there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety. We also try to consider the language and context in order to distinguish casual statements from content that constitutes a credible threat to public or personal safety. In determining whether a threat is credible, we may also consider additional information such as a person’s public visibility and the risks to their physical safety.”
For those who may be interested, these guidelines are available on the websites of the respective social media platforms.
It must be clarified, however, that the practice and process of reviewing and removing, if required, content, is an internal process of the company.
Regardless of platform, oWorkers has the trained manpower to moderate social media content for you, aided by the endless supply of the best talent available in the marketplace owing to their standing as a preferred employer. Fresh resources are then adopted by the dedicated training teams in each of its locations, to polish the rough diamonds into shape for client engagements.
Social media adoption by companies
Adoption of social media by companies is a precursor for the creation of social media moderation guidelines.
The world moved its original target market of college students very early in its life. It has, since, also moved beyond social media platforms being used for casual person-to-person exchanges only.
Constantly on the lookout for their next revenue dollar, companies perforce have had to get on to the social media bandwagon. If social media is where people are headed to, that is where they must head to, as well. If a company could be depicted in a comic book, looking at masses of people, potentially within their target segment, it would probably be shown with $$ signs in its eyes.
Since the usage of social media platforms has experienced a steep adoption curve, companies have had to evolve strategies for it as well. Through social media, they hoped to reach their message across to a much larger set of people at a fraction of the cost of traditional media. This was true in the early days of adoption but pricing may be more competitive now. They hoped to create a community around their brand where the discussion would be about their company and brands, positive hopefully. They hoped to reach out to new customers as happy customers will find it easy to share the message across on the same platform to many more people. They hoped to also leverage social media as a channel for customer service. Most people now have an internet-connected device with them all the time. If they have a need for service on any product, rather than look for how to reach the parent company, they might just find it easier to locate them on their social media sites.
The usage of social media by companies has rapidly expanded, in tandem with the growth in its adoption by individuals. Now there are millions of spaces on social media platforms that have been created for their own use.
Dollars being important to companies, the pricing offered by oWorkers becomes a differentiator. It offers a choice between output-based and input-based pricing to prospective clients. Most clients, especially those from the US and Western Europe, have noted savings of up to 80% after their work has been outsourced to oWorkers.
Setting up social media moderation guidelines
If they are trying to benefit from the reach of social media, they will have need to live with the ills of the platforms as well, with the main one being that of misuse of their space for propagating thoughts and ideas that may be either out of line with the rules of the site or abhorrent from the social and civic perspective.
So, what should they do?
They need to do what the platform owners do; moderate the content on their social media properties.
How do they do it?
While implementation may vary from company to company, the first step is usually the articulation of guidelines that need to be adhered to by users. Theirs may not be the road to hell, but they have to pave it with good intentions. What they might need to bear in mind while setting up social media moderation guidelines for their space:
Define the purpose of creating the community
This could be a high-level way of setting out expectations in easy language before you get into more detailed explanations later.
Specify what is acceptable and what is not
This ensures that participants have clarity and don’t end up having an excuse of lack of clarity. You could also specify legal and regulatory reasons, if any, for keeping some types of content on the ‘not acceptable’ side of the list.
A rule without any consequence of violation is just a homily. It has no place in business. Consequences for violators should be defined, and carried out. If there is an appeal mechanism where identified violators could seek a review, that should also be defined.
If the social media channel is being used for customer service, it would make sense to define turnaround times for response and action. Some companies may also need to set up processes and timelines for handling emergencies.
Define responsibility for moderation
All the good work in setting up a framework can come to nought if the responsibility for doing it is not defined. This might also be an opportunity to evaluate outsourcing versus doing it inhouse.
When you dip in and participate in the community, being polite and professional, regardless of provocation, is mandatory.
Regardless of the guidelines of a company, oWorkers has the skills to deliver the goods. Their workers being employees, not freelancers or contractors as preferred by some competitors, gives them the flexibility of redeployment. They have also been able to build supervisory experience through managing the career and growth of staff members. They routinely get scores of 4.65 and above, on a scale of 5, from past and present employees, on platforms like Glassdoor.
With their adopted policy of multi-cultural and multi-ethnic teams, oWorkers is able to offer services in 22 languages, regardless of the social media moderation guidelines of a client. This becomes a growth enabler for clients when they seek to expand to new geographies.
It has delivery locations in 3 distinct geographies of the world, widely recognized as among the most suitable for the business. This creates the possibility of one center serving as the business continuity backup for another, should client needs require this arrangement. In any case, all centers are equipped to operate on a 24×7 basis.
Their access to a continuous supply of manpower makes ramping up and down for clients easy, a huge saving of cost for clients.
They have been able to create a pathway for entry into the digital workforce for many from less privileged backgrounds. Your work will enable them to do the same for a few more.