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August 5, 2022

Is social media moderation ethical?

August 5, 2022

Is social media moderation ethical?

Is social network moderation necessary? Does it reduce freedom of expression? Are moderators protected? These are the questions we try to answer in this article.

What is social media moderation?

Social media moderation is the process or act of regulating social media content or ensuring that it is within acceptable guidelines unique to a particular community online. The main contents which are moderated on social media are video, text and images.

Types of the moderation in social media


With this method, human moderators thoroughly vet before allowing posts in line with community guidelines. It prevents the negative impact of a post on the community   and its members. It is very popular for detecting cyberbullying.


It involves the removal of contents which go contrary to online community guidelines. Trained artificial intelligence models assist moderators to examine the details of a post, and to quickly decide whether to delete or maintain them.  The number of moderators is very important, especially when it is a large audience in a live interaction.

Reactive moderation 

It relies on community members to flag up contents that breach its guidelines, or which members find unacceptable. Usually, there are available buttons to be clicked, which alerts the administration to ascertain whether flagged content is really inappropriate for the community. Once confirmed, the particular post is manually removed.

Commercial content moderation

Firms and organisations adopt this method to guard against reputation damage to their brand. Users flag inappropriate content within the confines of the law, community guidelines or general societal norms. Moderators secure the sites or platforms from harmful content such as pornography or violence. 

Distributed moderation

It involves user moderation and spontaneous moderation. With user moderation, users are allowed to moderate another's contents up or down by points which are aggregated within a particular range or at random. 

Automated moderation

Such tools as filters, and Natural Language Processing which blocks links from prohibited IP addresses in addition to identifying, flagging, modifying or deleting certain inappropriate expressions.

What are ethics ?

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that regulates human conduct within a given society, specifically whether it is justifiable or morally acceptable.

Two sides of the ethical coin

The Pros

Social media moderation is ethical when you look at brand and user protection. While you cannot regulate the toxic thoughts or language of others, you can regulate its presence on your page. Unnecessary cyberbullying and trolling can be eliminated through this.

It protects community members from viewing traumatic and gory content, which may have a psychological effect, such as regular panic attacks, on the users.

It allows information flow from users to increase the visibility of a brand in a safe virtual space, while at the same time keeping you in control of which content goes out to the public.

The Cons

Social media moderation does not give room for  “thinking outside the box”, especially with regards to Natural Language Processing. The circumstances, intent and emotions behind a post are not taken into consideration. For example, one jokingly posting “I will knock you out” will be flagged in automated moderation as violent speech. 

It has an emotional effect on moderators. Moderators are daily faced with explicit and traumatising data. It has a psychological effect on them and has the tendency to shoot arrows of mental burnout.

Regulatory guidelines are sometimes inaccurate. It hardly takes into account the technical or cultural context under which a content is created. 

The large volumes of data that come in on a daily basis poses a significant toll, especially for human moderators who have to manually check each content to decide what to do with them. It is also difficult, even with the aid of artificial intelligence, to moderate content within expected time.

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