“Controlled Chaos” – Moderating the User Generated Content

16 / May / 2019 by Akhil Kakroo 0 comments

Back in 2007, a movie featuring Madhuri Dixit was released; a film where we could see the quintessential heroine of the Indian screen after almost a decade. This movie was a disaster, but it gained bad publicity because of a completely different reason. A few lines in one of the songs were not taken well by a community and hence was banned from screening in a few states. The film was then released later, after a written apology by the producers and a change in the lyrics of the song.

Cut to 2019…12 years later.. and we see that authorities did not waste much time in banning TikTok because of the kind of content that was being shown on the UGC app.

This has only fueled a debate which is already doing the rounds. This debate is about the creative freedom that OTT providers are getting as compared to the traditional broadcast media. Merits, demerits, people taking sides for what is good what is not, but the most important thing here is self-regulation.

Self-regulation apart from increasing the brand value & reducing risks of ‘shut down’ also increases user retention. Interested people and communities take moderation very seriously and find a moderated portal better to voice their opinion.

When you permit users to put content on a platform, you are also inviting abuses like violence screening, hate speech, bullying, trolling, racism, religious and racial slurs and the list goes on. A balancing act is critical as you need to make sure that you give freedom to creators and communities for adding content but at the same time also make sure that people are not overstepping.

Hence, as a company/business when you are making your plans for user-generated content, you need to also plan for content moderation. While working on the standard operating procedures for UGC moderation, the first step should be to create categories for the issue(s) based on the severity levels.

At TO THE NEW, our UGC moderation team recommends four major categories:

UGC Moderation Categories

Political and Religious: From India’s perspective, this becomes the most critical category. Businesses have been shut down just because of a single mistake which went unnoticed.

Socially unacceptable: Most of the UGC apps operating in India do not have their roots in India, and hence, we can’t expect them to have a system built-in to filter all the socially unacceptable content. This can only be done once with the help of an extensive study of culture and society. TO THE NEW’s database keeps updating these nuances with time. Based on the customers’ content strategy, the database can also be tailored for moderation for specific projects and tasks.

Profanity & Pornography: Some of the platforms might give a free hand to users in using profanity because this is how a lot of SVOD players are dealing with it. However, you would always need to take it on a case by case basis. Apart from a full database of profanity in multiple languages, TTN also maintains guidelines on the contextual usage so that filtering can be made simpler.

Copyright violations: Things start becoming complicated with UGC when the earnings start. Most of the content that a user might create would be either a song, a movie dialogue, or just mimicking another copyrighted content. If the player has not already had an agreement with the label/rights owner, there is every chance of it being contented in a court of law for infringement.

This would mean that the platform needs to have a bigger legal team than the operations team!

There is a need to tag copyright owners for all incoming content before it is made ‘live’ and maintain a database. The platform needs to have a system to shut down such content that is tagged to individual copyright owners. This way, a lot of time and money can be saved.

With the ban on Tik Tok downloads recently, it has become quite evident that when it comes to decisions, it will be done at the snap of a finger.

User-generated content will always create some chaos, challenge the system, the society and the establishments. This is the beauty and reason for the stickiness of the users.

Nobody is asking to curb the chaos, but ‘controlled chaos’ would make everyone move cheek by jowl.


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