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Location, location, moderation: Selecting the right locale for your content moderation operations

Posted April 19, 2023 - Updated June 9, 2023
Illustration of a paper map of the world with pins in various locations

The popular phrase "lost in translation," commonly refers to how language and cultural differences can easily lead to misinterpretations, misunderstandings and even cultural clashes. The digital space is not immune to these scenarios, and when it comes to moderating user-generated content (UGC), it's of particular importance. A phrase shared online might be innocuous in one country but mean something entirely different in another. Cultural context is an important factor in content moderation.

In today's increasingly globalized world, moderating content is more complex than simply removing certain kinds of content from the internet. It is imperative that brands looking to create safe and welcoming online environments, earn customer trust, protect their brand reputation and embrace and reflect on the diversity of their user communities. One key factor is a geographic strategy. Brands need to fully understand that where they decide to set up their content moderation operations could impact the quality and effectiveness of their strategy.

An illustration showing various people enacting content moderation on a website and mobile phone.

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Choosing a location for your content moderation team

One of the first considerations for brands when it comes to content moderation should be where your operations should be located. Language, geography and the service hours required to best support your customers are all things to consider.

Understanding the predominant languages your customers use is a starting point. However, a great deal of social and cultural nuances also come into play. If your brand is operating outside of your country of origin, you need to take a critical look at your content moderation strategy from this vantage point. Do your moderators possess adequate knowledge of the local traditions and intricate cultural differences prevalent in those regions? And are they able to localize their moderation efforts to suit those unique requirements? Having a content moderation presence within, or closely aligned to, the regions you operate is an essential part of ensuring your team is able to understand those harder-to-define elements.

Time zone considerations are also important. Global brands must maintain around-the-clock moderation to prevent the spread of content that violates regulations during off-hours. That's especially true in places where there are regulations around how long noncompliant content can remain on a platform. For example, Regulation (EU) 2021/784 in the European Union requires that once a removal order is issued, hosting service providers must remove terrorist content within one hour. And, Germany's Network Enforcement Act requires network companies to immediately remove hateful content and other criminal material from their platforms or face steep fines.

Keeping these types of requirements in mind as you select locations for your content moderation operations will help ensure you have coverage when needed.

Jurisdictional regulations around content vary

Regulations regarding content vary widely between countries, and there are sometimes significant implications for non-compliance. This presents a complicated challenge.

In the U.S., individual states determine and implement regulations, so there is a great deal of variation. In fact, more than 250 bills have been introduced across all 50 states since 2020, according to the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

You'll need to understand the local, regional, provincial, state, national and international compliance regulations that apply to your company.

Benefits of a content moderation outsourcing partnership

The complexities of content moderation and the exponentially increasing amount of UGC online makes outsourcing an attractive prospect for brands. Working with an experienced global content moderation partner that has the right people, processes and technology means having a team at your disposal that can moderate content for you — around the clock, and around the world.

According to the IDC Info Snapshot, Expanding content moderation capabilities helps fast-growing brands earn customer trust, brands looking to work with an external partner to scale their content moderation programs should ensure that the provider is familiar with global regulations, employs a mix of people and technology, addresses all content and cultural nuances and prioritizes the well-being of content moderators.

At TELUS International, for example, our large global footprint — which covers over 50 languages — ensures that our content moderators take into consideration the cultural, regional and socio-political nuances of local markets in their reviews.

The success of moderating user-generated content is heavily influenced by a thorough understanding of language and context. Brands that want to build and maintain a safe online environment must take into account how the geographical location of their content moderation operations could impact the effectiveness of their approach.

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