Image Moderation in UGC: Challenges & Solutions | Chekkee

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UPDATED November 6, 2023
Written By Milliscent Lucio

The age of text-only websites has passed. In today's digital realm, visual content has become essential to convey messages effectively, capture the audience's attention, and foster engagement.

However, this emphasis on visual user-generated content (UGC) has ushered in new challenges, particularly in content moderation. The need for a specialized content moderation service geared toward visual media has become increasingly evident as the digital world becomes filled with images, graphics, and videos. This necessity has given rise to the burgeoning field of image moderation.

Image moderation is a response to the evolving nature of digital content creation. It encompasses the comprehensive reviewing and filtering of user-uploaded images to ensure they adhere to community guidelines, legal standards, and ethical norms. The aim is to balance encouraging creative expression and safeguarding online communities from harmful or inappropriate visual content.

This article dives into the challenges faced by image content moderators and how the collaboration between humans and AI can effectively address these challenges.

The Rise of User-Generated Content

Even before the dawn of technology, content moderation existed in some way. After all, people had to review and approve whatever goes into any printed media before publication.

Now, imagine the number of letters that a major newspaper gets. Multiply it by a thousand. The product is most probably still lower than the average UGC created every day. There are 50 million images uploaded daily on Instagram alone. What more if you combine the content from other social media platforms?

The development of technology and the rising number of internet users have contributed to a surge in UGC. In many ways, this surge has reshaped the digital landscape and transformed how individuals engage with and contribute to online content.

The proliferation of accessible digital tools and platforms has empowered people from all walks of life to become content creators. As technology advances, the barriers to entry for content creation continue to lower, enabling a broader and more diverse range of individuals to participate in the digital discourse. This democratization of content generation has resulted in an explosion of UGC spanning various formats, from text-based posts and comments to images, videos, and beyond.

This high amount of data, however, comes with a lot of risks as not every internet user acts in good faith. It becomes increasingly apparent that the sheer magnitude of data can, at times, overwhelm efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of online communities.

With a profusion of content being generated and shared across various platforms, the meticulous task of content moderation becomes even more complicated, with user safety falling by the wayside.

Let’s take a look at the major hiccups of content moderation.

The Challenges of Content Moderation

  • Volume and Scale

As mentioned earlier, an average of 50 million images are uploaded on Instagram daily. Think about the manpower needed to review that large amount of data manually.

  • Diversity of Content

Website owners and content moderators are faced with the responsibility of overseeing not only images but also various other content formats, such as text and videos. These formats necessitate more rigorous scrutiny and the adoption of advanced, sophisticated technologies for effective evaluation.

  • Emerging Technologies

Artificial intelligence proves to be invaluable. Thanks to automated moderation, large amounts of data can be processed in real-time.

But on the other side of the coin, the existence of such technology comes with bad actors utilizing it to achieve nefarious goals. These individuals or groups leverage technology to perpetrate a wide range of harmful activities, casting a shadow over the otherwise transformative potential of these advancements.

These bad actors may employ technology for various malicious purposes, including cyberattacks, identity theft, fraud, the dissemination of disinformation, and online harassment. Their actions can lead to serious consequences for individual victims and the broader digital community, eroding trust and tarnishing the online experience.

Common Image Moderation Challenges

Besides those listed above, there are particular challenges unique to the process of image content moderation.

  • Nudity and Explicit Content

Explicit material has always been a thing way before technology existed. But while you can cover a child’s eyes from looking at a gravure magazine, that’s not feasible on the internet.

On digital platforms, bad actors can employ tactics like blurring or pixelating the explicit parts of an image, enabling such content to bypass the initial content moderation process.

  • Hate Speech and Offensive Imagery

You can’t take every image at face value. What might seem innocent at first glance may actually contain a more sinister undertone. There arises the risk that elements of hate speech and other offensive imagery may inadvertently slip through the moderation process.

  • Violence and Graphic Content

Determining what constitutes "violent" or "graphic" content can be subjective. Different people may interpret the same content differently based on their cultural, social, or personal backgrounds. This subjectivity can lead to inconsistencies in moderation decisions.

Context also matters in this case. On the one hand, certain websites and platforms may host violent content as part of educational initiatives, journalistic reporting, or historical documentation. In these cases, the intention is to inform, raise awareness, or provide insight into critical issues such as conflict zones, medical procedures, or social injustices.

On the other hand, malevolent actors may exploit violent imagery to glorify or sensationalize harm, incite violence, or intimidate others. This type of content poses significant risks to the safety and well-being of users and must be swiftly identified and removed to maintain a safe online environment.

  • Cultural Sensitivities

Every country has its own variety of cultures and every culture has its idiosyncrasies. It’s simply impossible to be aware of what is and isn’t allowed for all cultures. These cases would need a more nuanced approach from someone entrenched in these cultures.

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The Role of AI in Image Moderation

AI-Powered Solutions

The sheer volume of visual content generated daily has reached a point where human content moderators alone are incapable of effectively filtering it all. To cope with this burgeoning influx of visual UGC, website owners, and content moderation companies have turned to the invaluable assistance of AI.

With the help of AI, image content moderation solutions can be employed in real-time, saving time and resources and reducing the human workload. This also has the added benefit of reducing the exposure of human content moderators to potentially traumatizing visual content.

AI is also more scalable and ideal for processing large amounts of data. This scalability eliminates the need for onboarding additional personnel during peak seasons or periods of heightened data flow.

Limitations of AI

As advanced as it may seem, content moderation AI is not close to being perfect.

  • False Positives and False Negatives

First on the list of limitations is the tendency for false positives and false negatives. False positive in content moderation happens when an action is taken where there shouldn’t be. For example, a meme gets flagged for violence even when it doesn’t contain anything close to it.

Meanwhile, a false negative occurs when no action is taken in a situation where action should be warranted. An example is violent imagery getting past the pre-moderation measures and getting published.

  • Contextual Understanding

The human language is akin to a colorful palette. The intricacies of context, intent, and cultural sensitivities present formidable challenges for AI. Elements like sarcasm, for instance, often elude AI, risking misinterpretation when taken literally without the depth of human understanding.

  • Dataset Bias

An AI content moderator is only as good as its dataset. After all, AI still relies on human intelligence to “learn”. Therefore, if an AI system is trained on subpar data or exposed to a biased dataset, it can result in erroneous decision-making.

Human Moderation and Hybrid Approaches

Human and AI working

Despite the utilization of AI content moderation tools, the human factor still remains valuable. How so? Let’s discuss.

Benefits of Human Moderation

Accuracy

Humans are armed with a deeper understanding of context and intent, capable of analyzing the nuances of an image. While this may be slower, it allows for more accurate decision-making.

Nuanced Understanding

Human content moderators, with their extensive training, human intuition, and experiences, possess a remarkable capacity for grasping the intricacies of human communication that extend far beyond the realm of mere text.

Their expertise encompasses a multifaceted understanding of spoken and written language, the subtleties of body language, and the nuances conveyed through imagery.

This trait is essential for judgment calls regarding content. For instance, being able to differentiate the manji symbol from a Nazi swastika.

Flexibility

AI needs to be regularly trained and updated. Human content moderators, meanwhile, possess an innate adaptability that allows them to adjust to emerging trends and patterns in online behavior with remarkable agility. Their ability to understand context, interpret subtleties, and stay attuned to shifts in language and culture positions them as agile responders to the ever-changing digital landscape.

Hybrid Moderation Models

The prospect of AI replacing human moderators may be a source of concern for some, given the complexities inherent in a content moderation platform. However, the realization is that the two can complement each other in a symbiotic relationship.

There are pros and cons to both human and AI content moderation. Thus, it’s only natural to combine the two to make up for each other’s shortcomings.

By integrating AI image moderation, human moderators can focus their expertise on challenging cases and context-dependent decisions, ensuring the highest standards of content quality and safety. AI, in turn, assists in the swift and efficient review of vast content volumes, reducing the workload on human moderators and enhancing overall productivity.

This collaborative approach not only leverages the strengths of both human and automatic image moderation but also addresses apprehensions about potential job displacement. Rather than replacing human moderators, AI augments their capabilities, offering a valuable tool for maintaining the integrity of online communities while alleviating some of the burdens associated with content moderation.

Best Practices for Image Moderation Service

workflow

  • Implement Rules and Guidelines

Your community's rules and guidelines are the initial barrier against inappropriate visual content. It is essential that they are comprehensive and specific, as they form the foundation upon which your users base their posting behavior.

  • Be Consistent

Having established and well-defined rules and guidelines in place fosters consistency in the moderation process. It not only demonstrates your commitment to ensuring the safety of your users but also underscores your transparency in outlining and adhering to your content moderation procedures.

This fosters trust in your online community and bolsters the effectiveness of your rules and guidelines.

  • Come up with a Moderation Workflow

How do you go about your image moderation process? Map it out and look for any holes that might be exploited by bad actors. Consider every scenario that might happen and come up with an action to address it.

  • Double-Check

Judging an image at first glance is a recipe for false positives and false negatives. Consider the whole picture and the intent behind it. Be critical with your decision-making.

Going Further with Image Content Moderation

The digital landscape's evolution towards visual user generated content has ushered in an era where image moderation services are indispensable. This evolving field not only reflects the changing nature of online communication but also the commitment to fostering safe, inclusive, and creative digital communities.

As the digital realm continues to evolve, image moderation solutions remain a cornerstone in the quest to strike a harmonious balance between visual expression and responsible online engagement.

For effective content moderation, you need the right partner. This is where Chekkee’s image moderation services step in, offering a comprehensive suite of hybrid content moderation services that can be tailored to meet your specific needs and requirements.

Gain access to a wealth of expertise and cutting-edge technologies designed to safeguard your online community and uphold the highest content standards. Our commitment to excellence in content moderation ensures that your digital space remains secure, compliant, and conducive to positive user experiences.

Focus on your core tasks and leave the moderation to us. You’ll receive regular reports and timely updates on the progress of your moderation requirements.

Keep your UGC safe and at the same time, visually appealing. Contact us!

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