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How to De-Risk the Creation and Moderation of User-Generated Content


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With the growing volume of user-generated content, Web sites need to create a content moderation strategy that is scalable, effective and cost-efficient, while providing an enriched, socially-enabled user experience.

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How to De-Risk the Creation and Moderation of User-Generated Content

  1. 1. • Cognizant 20-20 InsightsHow to De-Risk the Creation andModeration of User-Generated Content Executive Summary adopt and leverage scalable, effective and cost-efficient options to continue providing an Since the inception of the Internet, Web sites have enriched, socially-enabled user experience. enabled easy creation and distribution of user- generated content (UGC) to global audiences. The This white paper discusses the growth of user- tremendous growth of UGC, following the advent generated content, the challenges of effectively of Web 2.0, has highlighted the need for Web sites moderating UGC content and how to think through that can more proactively alert organizations to approaching these challenges to provide the best the existence of mal-content (i.e., bad content). long-term UGC moderation solution. How a Web site moderates its UGC is an essential Growth of User-Generated Content part of its online brand identity. While some Web sites allow an open sharing atmosphere where 4.1 million minutes of video are uploaded to almost anything goes, others ensure that UGC YouTube everyday … six billion images per not only meets the highest standards but also month are uploaded to Facebook … 40% reflects positively on the brand. The persona of a of images and 80% of videos [created] are Web site is reflected in its approach to and consis- inappropriate for business.” 1 tency with determining which UGC is acceptable Broadly speaking, UGC is any material piece of vs. not acceptable. To generate traffic, some Web content that a user creates or leverages from sites may be very minimally moderated, often existing sources and uploads or shares on a Web at the expense of overall public perception. Web site for others to view (see Figure 1). UGC comes in sites with established, strong brands known to be many different forms, including short-text content family- and age-appropriate often require a more such as tweets and forum comments; long-text sophisticated approach toward UGC moderation. posts on blogs and profiles; and multimedia While the explosion in UGC poses numerous material such as images, audio, video and appli- opportunities, it is not without risk. With the cations (see Figure 2). Such content often further ability of individuals, groups and machines to manifests itself as targeted or non-targeted online publish inappropriate, irrelevant or copyright- display ads, search engine results and archived infringing materials, online companies must Web content, as well as tags, posts or hyperlinks ensure that this content does not reflect poorly on various Web sites. on the brand, negatively impact loyal customers The online industry has adopted numerous or damage the bottom line. To mitigate UGC business models that create, capture and deliver risks, content moderation must continuously cognizant 20-20 insights | january 2012
  2. 2. Typical Ways Users Generate UGC Mobile From Existing Computers Cameras Web Cams Devices Mobile Content From Existing Computers Cameras Web Cams Devices Content Figure 1 Types of UGC Short Text Short Text Long TextText Long Multimedia Multimedia Other Other • Posts • Posts • Blogs • Blogs • Video Video • • User contact contact • User • Tweets • Tweets • Wiki Wiki • • Audio/podcasts • Audio/podcasts and profile profile and • SMS/text messages • SMS/text messages • Discussion forums/ • Discussion forums/ • ImagesImages • • Location-based • Location-based • Comments/ Q&A &A • Flash-enabled check-inscheck-ins • Comments/ Q • Flash-enabled feedback/likes • Product/service content • Game content content • Game feedback/likes • Product/service content • Chat rooms reviews • Opinion polls • Chat rooms reviews • Opinion polls Figure 2 business value. In recent years, the social offering subscription access to user-generated phenomenon has become embedded within the business profiles, user-provided data and the DNA of many online-only companies. Web sites like. The list of companies building communities such as YouTube and Facebook rely on UGC (and around UGC to buoy their bottom line is large the resulting visitor traffic) to and growing, much like the number of users who attract and sell advertisements. create and consume UGC. The list of Mobile and gaming companies companies building provide platforms to sell third- The monetary benefits of UGC are obvious: Content stickiness builds customer loyalty,communities around party-created applications and sustained platform traffic that achieves critical virtual elements and collect a UGC to buoy their transaction fee for each sale. mass, and top-line growth for companies that are bottom line is large able to monetize subscription services and page Other companies, such as views via advertising or affiliate relationships. and growing, much professional networking Web Non-monetary incentives include status-building like the number of sites, sell access to user- with those who like and/or follow site content, users who create created profile information. network and relationship-building with viewers Various online retail and media and affiliated sites, and content sharing/commu- and consume UGC. companies thrive on user nication with viewers’ colleagues and friends. opinion, reviews and feedback to enable social and viral marketing/selling, as well Users may also have the opportunity for financial as an enhancement for helping business partners incentives by creating UGC for Web sites that sell their own product and service offerings. leverage crowdsourcing as a specific approach to content generation, which is the sourcing of Some Web sites have been able to monetize UGC tasks (in this case, the generation of content) to content beyond just selling advertising, such as a group or community of people. Business models cognizant 20-20 insights 2
  3. 3. Projected Annual Growth of UGC (2011 – 2013)Source: Cognizant researchFigure 3and new technologies such as mobile devices and UGC and sustain viable social network interac-cloud computing have made UGC creation and tions. Inappropriate content includes, but is notpublishing more convenient, thereby amplifying limited to, profanity, sedition, violence, bare skin,UGC growth. Overall, UGC creation and distribu- false and outdated information, spam and othertion have grown astronomically (see Figure 3). inappropriate content.Need for Content Moderation Three main methods exist for Web sites toIt is crucial to ensure that only appropriate moderate content (see Figure 4):UGC is posted on the Web site by screening and • Automated moderation, using computer appli-filtering for mal-content. Failing to do so could cations and algorithms.severely impact user traffic, company brand andthe bottom line. The huge growth and pervasive- • Community moderation, leveraging the online community to self-moderate content (such asness of UGC within companies’ core online user flagging or volunteer administration).experience poses potentially complex challengesand heightens unnecessary exposure to risk. • Human moderation, whether by a dedicated staff or crowdsourced.Strict policies must be set and applied to governcontent authenticity, originality, privacy, political/ Additionally, within each method, there are varioussocial correctness and legalities, both locally and ways to determine whether content is unaccept-globally. Such policies should permit and promote able. In many cases — in addition to validatingThinking Through Content ModerationFigure 4 cognizant 20-20 insights 3
  4. 4. copyright or determining inappropriateness of may not be viable for all kinds of UGC; thus, a UGC — content may also need to be moderated diligent analysis of the quality and cost tradeoffs for quality, structure and relevance. must be performed. The dimension of moderation time further complicates the analysis, as specific Lapses in content regulation UGC-like tweets and blog posts require real-time While real-time can result in costly lawsuits publishing to align with user expectations. moderation appears from either original contentideal, the associated rights-holders or offended When to moderate is not the only question. How Web site visitors in countries to implement moderation that is scalable and costs may not be where these laws apply. Such cost-efficient is just as important. For instance, viable for all kinds lapses can additionally result should you be reactive or proactive (e.g., should of UGC; thus, a in Web site traffic reduction, you conduct post-moderation for all UGC or just loss of advertisers and sub- for the content reported on or flagged by users)? diligent analysis of scribers, as well as a poor the quality and cost user/buying experience that Inefficient Moderation Techniques tradeoffs must be may severely impact future A large percentage of content moderation costs earnings. In 2007, YouTube can be attributed to process inefficiencies. performed. was sued for nearly $1 billion Choosing the appropriate moderation technique is by Viacom for publishing also critical. Effective methods include automated copyrighted material.2 Facebook has often been algorithms, such as Bayesian filtering and pattern criticized for publishing posts and providing a detection of blacklisted words and phrases, color platform to user groups that are politically or tone and user/location profiling. However, most culturally sensitive.3 automated techniques do not moderate every piece of content but only samples of it; this can Challenges in Content Moderation lead to mal-content leakage. There are many challenges to determining not only the optimal content moderation strategy Consider scenarios where too few image samples that corresponds to the Web site’s identity, brand of a video piece are taken or when the script is and visitors but also how to put it into effect. in English but is merely a translation of another language. In these cases, automated moderation Cost, Time, and Quality Tradeoff is insufficient, and either human or community Organizations must be diligent when choosing the moderation is also required. This is easier said right mix of real-time moderation, pre-moderation than done. and post-moderation of UGC on their Web sites, Human moderation, although effective, can be as well as whether or how to apply a combina- highly inefficient if one has to continue moderating tion of machine-automated and community- and/ the same UGC in different formats or if multiple or human-moderated approaches. While real-time moderators must continually track previously moderation appears ideal, the associated costs Cost Estimates by Content Type Estimated Estimated Approximate Machine Approximate Manual Content Moderation Average Size Moderation Cost Moderation Cost Type Time (per piece) (per 1,000 pieces) (per 1,000 pieces) (per piece) Video 6 min (100 MB) 1.7 min $2.61 $277 Audio 6 min (5 MB) 1.4 min $0.13 $230 Images 500 KB 0.4 sec $0.013 $0.70 Text 200 words (200 KB) 1 min $0.005 $167 Source: Cognizant research Figure 5 cognizant 20-20 insights 4
  5. 5. moderated UGC. The biggest challenge with result in expanding the amount of UGC contenthuman moderation, however, is the lack of scal- created, thus increasing the demand for contentability, which is an issue given UGC’s proliferation moderation even further.and the high cost of sustaining such operations. While the challenges involved The biggestFigure 5 estimates the average cost of moderation, in moderating UGC are mul-assuming a modest rate for a human moderator. tifaceted and complex to challenge withDepending on the moderation rules and policies navigate, it is vital to choose human moderation,that need to be applied, the cost of certain types the right combination of however, is the lackof moderation may be significantly higher. moderation techniques. These combinations will be of scalability, whichHolistic Moderation governed not just by the is an issue givenOrganizations must moderate not only the dimension of accuracy but by UGC’s proliferationcontent but also the users, as mal-content is often the total cost of operations,the result of user ignorance or lack of awareness. as well as moderating time and the high costMuch mitigation can be achieved through user- required. of sustaining suchfriendly and upfront communication of policies The Right Content operations.and guidelines. Some Web sites allow the pos-sibility of self-moderation through tagging, Moderation Approachfiltering and warnings. Ideally, the more upfront Content moderation has grown into a disciplinemoderation with simple computerized checking that requires expertise in pattern detection andand labeling, the less downstream volume and analysis. Although there are numerous software-impact to content moderation processes after based solutions in the market, they do not addresssubmission. the custom needs of particular businesses. With the right level of investment in moderatingLocalization Challenges content, Web site operators can create an optimalWeb sites may often need to serve global strategy that maximizes customer satisfac-users across countries and locales. In order to tion while minimizing abuse and impact on thedetermine the appropriateness of text-based company’s brand and reputation (see Figure 6).UGC, moderators must be able to understand thelanguage in which UGC is written, as well as the With the increasing growth of UGC, as well as thecontent’s localized context and intent. Further- technology, cost and scale needed to moderate it,more, perception of the content’s inappropriate- achieving an optimal long-term solution requiresness may change based on the acceptable norms detailed strategic planning and execution. Aof the locale in which the Web site and the owner variety of options currently exist to help Webreside. Content that is deemed appropriate in the site operators protect andU.S. may be perceived as highly inappropriate in optimize their investmentsareas within Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In and reduce increasing Ideally, the morecertain parts of the Middle East, for instance, any moderation costs. Many orga- upfront moderationdegree of skin revealed on a woman is unaccept- nizations have outsourced with simpleable. In certain Asian countries, the color red may their content moderationbe perceived as inappropriate. Acceptable speech operations to reduce costs computerizedin different countries may also vary, especially and enable more scalable checking and labeling,pertaining to elements of politics or religion. and predictable business the less downstream outcomes. Others haveLikewise, perception may even vary in demo- implemented both custom volume and impact tographic groups within a single geography. In a and standardized technology content moderationgrowing number of cases, the requirements for options to replace existing processes aftercontent moderation are starting to become more technology or to cut devel-“hyper-localized” to focus on UGC from specific opment and maintenance submission.regions or populations, thereby mandating the expenses.need to create separate rules and guidelines foreach locale or user group. The personalization Some companies have also experimented withand relevance of more hyper-localized Web sites content moderation crowdsourcing solutionsand content will not only increase the demand for to replace human moderation, with mixedhyper-localized content moderation but will also success. While seemingly leveraging an unlimited cognizant 20-20 insights 5
  6. 6. Content Moderation Decision Framework Max Number of Desired reactive abuses Strategy Customer satisfaction Cost of cleaning UGC MinFigure 6 Content Moderation Strategynumber of resources at minimal cost may seem management. However, finding the right contentideal, crowdsourcing to date still produces poor moderation solution could be a difficult endeavormoderation quality. Other Web sites have gone without solid strategic advice and a well-thought-purely with community moderation to reduce out approach, leveraging industry best practicescosts, but this also may produce mixed results, as customized for specific needs, as well as a clearthe moderation of UGC can become overwhelm- understanding of the objectives and ecosystem ofing even for members. your Web site.Thus, many solutions are available for contentmoderation and evaluation, implementation andFootnotes1 Quotes from and various sources, Nov. 15, 2011.2 Anne Broache and Greg Sandoval, “Viacom Sues Google over YouTube Clips,” C-NET, March 13, 2007. html?tag=mncol;txt3 “Criticism of Facebook,” Wikipedia, Nov. 1, 2011. cognizant 20-20 insights 6
  7. 7. About the AuthorsAbhijeet Khadilkar is a Director within Cognizant’s Business Consulting Practice, where he advisestechnology companies on sales enablement and business transformation. Abhijeet can be reached Pai is a Manager within Cognizant’s Business Consulting Practice and advises technologycompanies on customer experience, online operations strategy, mobile marketing strategy, social mediaenablement and enterprise business challenges. He has more than 12 years of experience working forsuch companies as Deloitte Consulting, Accenture and IBM, serving a number of clients including Cisco,Adobe, GameStop and Tom can be reached at Ghadiali is a Manager within Cognizant’s Business Consulting Practice and is focused onoperations enablement of new business models, including cloud and mobile computing. He also spe-cializes in online retail, channel strategy, sales and service operations. Shabbir can be reached authors would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Charlie Goldenberg, a Vice Presidentwithin Cognizant Business Consulting, and Matt Sugerman, a Senior Executive within Cognizant’sTechnology Business Unit.About CognizantCognizant (NASDAQ: CTSH) is a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business process out-sourcing services, dedicated to helping the world’s leading companies build stronger businesses. Headquartered inTeaneck, New Jersey (U.S.), Cognizant combines a passion for client satisfaction, technology innovation, deep industryand business process expertise, and a global, collaborative workforce that embodies the future of work. With over 50delivery centers worldwide and approximately 130,000 employees as of September 30, 2011, Cognizant is a member ofthe NASDAQ-100, the S&P 500, the Forbes Global 2000, and the Fortune 500 and is ranked among the top performingand fastest growing companies in the world. Visit us online at or follow us on Twitter: Cognizant. World Headquarters European Headquarters India Operations Headquarters 500 Frank W. Burr Blvd. 1 Kingdom Street #5/535, Old Mahabalipuram Road Teaneck, NJ 07666 USA Paddington Central Okkiyam Pettai, Thoraipakkam Phone: +1 201 801 0233 London W2 6BD Chennai, 600 096 India Fax: +1 201 801 0243 Phone: +44 (0) 20 7297 7600 Phone: +91 (0) 44 4209 6000 Toll Free: +1 888 937 3277 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7121 0102 Fax: +91 (0) 44 4209 6060 Email: Email: Email:© Copyright 2012, Cognizant. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by anymeans, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the express written permission from Cognizant. The information contained herein issubject to change without notice. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.