Content moderation, social media, and mental health

Tons of global brands seek us out to help them create safe and helpful online communities through user-generated content moderation support of all kinds including image, text, and audio/video.

One of the big trends we’ve seen in the last two years — for the best! — has been a greater understanding of the psychological implications of content moderation. There are articles about this seemingly everywhere these days. The New Yorker recently interviewed author Mary South, who wrote a book where the main character is, in fact, a content moderator. The Verge wrote an article in 2019 about “the secret lives of content moderators,” predominantly looking at Facebook moderators — and in late 2019, former Facebook moderators sued the company (and won) over PTSD.

YouTube moderators are now signing documents about their potential susceptibility to PTSD.  

This all begs the question: What is the responsibility of content moderation outsourcing companies, what is the responsibility of the end client, and how can we work together to ensure the health and well-being of moderators?

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The Conectys approach to protecting content moderators

There are a few core tenets to how we approach well-being and mental health within content moderation and front-line customer experience work:

RECRUITMENT: We match employee personality and emotional resilience with the future job requirements by diligently screening candidates and being transparent about the benefits and the common challenges they will experience. In the recruitment process, we use emotional intelligence testing as well.

TRAINING: We do lots of it every time we launch a new project or bring new agents on board, but part of our initial training for moderators is a full-day session called “Moderation Skill Pack.”

While it wasn’t initially designed as a mental health tool, we’ve seen the positive effects it’s had by setting the mindset of newcomers on the mission of their job: making the internet a safer place. We talk about their exposure to negative content, and agents are introduced to the positive effects of social media but also learn about how some people choose to use it with negative intent. (We typically refer to these people as “bad actors.”)

Simply by establishing the mindset that each agent will directly contribute to the wellbeing of a community by catching negative acts and blocking them has a massive impact on mental health by emphasizing the positive force our agents provide.

REAL-TIME SUPPORT: We also have something called HR Connect. In short, a dedicated  Human Resources professional is assigned to each site and regular (and proactively) check-ins with moderators, either by request or at random, to offer them guidance and attempt to catch any signs of mental distress caused by their moderation duties.

Additionally, our managers have extensive training on how to identify possible signs of mental health issues and how to offer support in such cases. We talk frequently with support agents about mental health, developing resilience, and more.

We run these programs from the beginning of launching a new site/account, and we continuously improve and customize them through the life of the project. We’re actively developing a six-month follow-up to the Skill Pack Training described above; the goal is to extend ideas of digital trust and safety, but bring in contextual lessons from a moderator’s first half-year in the role.

The best news: in almost two years of activity, we have not had any confirmed cases of mental health issues caused by negative activity on any account. That’s good for our agents (most importantly) and that’s good for our clients’ communities.

Bottom line
It all comes back to training, support, and care. If you focus intensely on those areas, and regular follow-up with those who work in content moderation, you can turn a potential negative into a strong positive for your people and the brands you work with.

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