It was once unthinkable that social media would become an integral aspect of daily life, but here we are, relying on it for communication, information, entertainment, and even shaping our social interactions. It’s brought to our lives a whole new set of rules, and now that online duality is expected, the balance between safety and freedom in these environments is more crucial than ever. The evolution of these platforms, from their humble beginnings to the behemoths they are today, has brought both connectivity and chaos. As the user base grew, so did the challenges of maintaining a safe online space without restricting users.
This article explores the origins of social media, the challenges it faces with user-generated content (UGC), the importance of content moderation, and the role of AI versus human moderation.
The Purpose of Social Media
Social media began in the late ’90s with platforms like Six Degrees, then Friendster and MySpace, most likely without knowing that they were going to be the spark that would give birth to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and others that are now so popular, to the point of becoming an essential part of social interaction.
These platforms were all about bringing people together. They broke down the walls between folks in different places, and it was exciting because it let you show bits of your life to others and see what your friends were up to. And these early social media sites were successful because of their ability to connect with new people in a way that wasn’t possible before.
So, when social media first emerged, its primary goal was to allow people to make friends and share their lives online. It set the stage for what social media is today—a place where we all connect and share our stories, no matter where we are.
More People, More Problems
With the unimaginable success of social media, it attracted millions, then billions of users. This massive rise brought along a flood of content—pictures, posts, comments—that grew so huge it became nearly impossible to control. The platforms started turning into the wild west, where anything and everything could be shared.
With more people joining, the volume of content becomes overwhelming. It is like a tsunami of information coming in, and keeping track of it all is a monumental task. What is the consequence of this? —the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not becomes blurred, and it gets harder for platforms to make sure that inappropriate or harmful content does not take over the user experience. If this doesn’t get solved quickly, it can lead platforms to tank their growth and lose every bit of trust from users. Finding a way back to safety and order is crucial.
Why UGC is the Downfall of Many Emerging Platforms
User-generated content (UGC) is what makes social media what it is—its essence—but it can also be disruptive and put an end to the platform. While initially intended as an online space for free expression and creativity, UGC can slowly begin to transform into a breeding ground for exploitation. Lack of regulations can enable bad actors to spread harmful content, including hate speech, harassment, explicit images, and misinformation, which can disrupt the user experience and, in many cases, cause actual harm.
How to Stay Afloat
We’ve covered the purpose of social media and how unmoderated UGC can put an end to any emerging or already established platform, but how could we stay clear of these issues? Here’s where content moderation comes in, serving as the foundation for maintaining a safe yet inclusive environment.
Setting clear and well-defined guidelines for acceptable content creation and user behaviour forms the bedrock of cultivating a positive online space. By leveraging both AI-based moderation and trained teams ready to identify and act upon either content, profiles, or comments that go against platform values, any social media site can stay away from the chaos without losing authenticity.
Finding the right balance between protecting people’s safety without restricting their freedom of speech is what makes content moderation necessary. Setting rules for what is acceptable helps keep an online community healthy, where people feel safe from harmful content while still being able to share different points of view. Here’s where content moderation acts as a shield against the potential hazards that unchecked UGC can cause. By implementing robust content moderation practices, social media platforms can aim to create an environment where users engage authentically without the fear of coming across harmful, explicit, or inappropriate content.
Humans vs AI
Advantages of AI Content Moderation
1. Scale and Speed: AI can quickly handle huge amounts of data and sort through content at an amazing speed. This same speed guarantees quick processing and reaction times, which are crucial for handling large amounts of information. As platforms grow their user base, this aspect of AI moderation stops being “just useful” but becomes essential.
2. Consistency: The way AI reconizes information and acts is based on predetermined rules and parameters, which the operator can adjust to fit the platform’s values. It won’t succumb to human biases, ensuring a standardised approach to content moderation.
3. Cost-Effectiveness: Building a content moderation team requires patience and great amounts of human capital, whereas implementing AI in your company’s assets can result in cost savings coupled with superior service.
4. 24/7 Availability: AI-based moderation works around the clock without being limited by human work hours, making sure that content that has been flagged is always watched and responded to quickly.
5. Scalability: AI systems can be easily scaled to adapt to growing user bases and content volumes without losing efficiency.
6. Language and Multilingual Capabilities: If a social media site works across multiple countries, translation becomes an issue AI can solve since it handles content written in a variety of languages, which makes moderation easier without the need for a translator or a multilingual team.
Disadvantages of Manual Moderation
1. Emotional Toll: Human moderators often face emotional stress due to prolonged exposure to disturbing or graphic content, impacting their mental well-being.
2. Subjectivity: Personal biases or interpretations can occasionally influence human moderation, which affects consistency in content moderation.
3. Limited Scalability: Manual moderation becomes challenging to scale as the volume of content increases, often resulting in slower response times or overlooked content.
With content moderation, social media is watched over by a guardian, much like having a bouncer at a fancy party, making sure everyone feels safe and welcome. As platforms get bigger, it becomes clear that manual moderation has its limits, and the best way to handle things is to combine AI-powered tools with human judgement. This effective combination guarantees keeping things in order without killing the party’s spirit.
This mixed method lets platforms efficiently handle the huge amount of content while keeping the complex understanding and context that only people can give. The best way to deal with the constantly changing social media landscape is to use AI-moderation as a base and add human oversight on top of it. It keeps people safe without getting in the way of the rich variety of user-generated content. In the end, it creates a space where people can freely interact while still following community standards and values.