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How to Create Social Media Comment Moderation Guidelines


Learn how to create and enforce social media comment moderation guidelines to provide a solid foundation for regulating online presence.

In 2020, social media platforms hid six billion harmful social media posts within six months. These posts were hidden to protect users according to community guidelines that prohibit spam, abuse, harassment, hateful content, and worse. Without the ability to remove or hide posts, social media would be much less fun and safe than it currently is. 

Social media moderators and moderation tools rely on carefully defined guidelines to help them determine which posts are acceptable and which are not. Without these standards in place, social media platforms risk violating users’ rights to free speech and a safe online environment. Well-defined and consistently enforced social media comment moderation guidelines provide a solid foundation for regulating online presence. That’s why 29% of users aged 18 to 34 want stricter guidelines for content moderation on social media.

Instead of leaving your social media safety to chance, it’s essential to understand the ins and outs of developing smart and thoughtful social media comment moderation guidelines. Doing so will equip you and your team with the knowledge needed to maintain a safe and respectful online community.

Determine Why and Where to Moderate

To establish practical, purpose-driven social media moderation guidelines that align with your goals, you should clearly understand why and where moderation is necessary. 

Establish the Overall Goals of Moderation (Find Your Why)

Establishing effective guidelines should help determine the purpose or objective of your social media moderation efforts. Most content moderation guidelines have aims like:

  • Fostering a positive community culture
  • Protect users from harm
  • Maintaining a positive brand image

When you think about it, having overarching moderation goals is like charting a course for a successful journey. These objectives guide your moderation efforts, helping facilitate a healthy digital space that better embodies your brand’s values and principles.

Identify the Specific Social Media Platforms for Moderation (Where?)

Every social media platform has a unique audience, communication dynamic, and culture. That’s why content moderation guidelines shouldn’t ever be a one-size-fits-all approach.  

Identify the specific social media platforms where your brand is succeeding, and account for nuances on each. This allows you to develop a targeted moderation strategy specific to each platform that considers your company goals and the target audience.

Create Your Content Moderation Guidelines

Your guidelines will form the core of your social media platform’s governance. Here are some features you’ll want to include and some tips for baking in these features.

Create a Comprehensive List of Prohibited Content

To be an effective content moderator, you need a carefully curated list of what’s out of bounds. This list should be organized by categories, each with its own crystal-clear definition.

Consider tracking key terms and identifying types of content that will need to be flagged by either an automated tool or human moderators. 

For example, many online brands prohibit comments and content of the following nature: 

  • Hate speech and discrimination
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Violence and threats
  • Misinformation and disinformation
  • Spam and irrelevant content
  • Personal information and privacy violations

Specific lists like these will provide users with a clear understanding of acceptable behavior and ensure consistent enforcement by your moderation team. 

During this process, don’t overlook the power of your brand guidelines in determining what should go on the prohibited content list. Your brand values should be the compass that guides your brainstorming efforts.  

Provide Examples of Acceptable and Unacceptable Content for Each Category

Providing concrete examples helps provide clarity and tangible guidance to users, illustrating the distinctions between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

By clearly illustrating acceptable and unacceptable content, your company’s guidelines become a playbook for users, ensuring they’re on the same team and playing by the same rules so there’s no confusion

If we were to take the list from the previous section and provide examples, here’s what it might look like:

Hate speech and discrimination

  • Acceptable: Constructive, respectful discussions about cultural differences.
  • Unacceptable: Direct attacks or derogatory comments based on race, gender, religion, or other protected characteristics.

Harassment and bullying

  • Acceptable: Sharing differing opinions respectfully.
  • Unacceptable: Repeatedly targeting an individual with harmful comments or threats.

Violence and threats

  • Acceptable: Discussing conflict without promoting harm.
  • Unacceptable: Explicitly endorsing or threatening violence towards individuals or groups.

Misinformation and disinformation

  • Acceptable: Sharing opinions with proper disclaimers.
  • Unacceptable: Spreading false facts intentionally to deceive others.

Spam and irrelevant content

  • Acceptable: Sharing relevant links or information.
  • Unacceptable: Mass-posting unrelated content or unsolicited promotions.

Personal information and privacy

  • Acceptable: Sharing personal experiences with consent.
  • Unacceptable: Posting someone’s private information without permission.

Outline Consequences for Violating the Guidelines

Establishing predefined consequences for violations of your social media guidelines helps ensure everyone is on the same page before they engage with your brand online.

Here’s an example of clear-cut language on policy infractions that violate your guidelines:

“Our commitment to fostering a healthy digital space requires collective responsibility. Violations of our community guidelines may result in consequences ranging from content removal to temporary suspension of access or, in severe cases, a permanent ban. By understanding and abiding by these guidelines, you contribute to the well-being of our community.”


How to Deal with Gray Areas in Content Moderation

In cases where content doesn’t technically violate established guidelines but is close, it’s essential to:

  1. Evaluate it using a combination of human judgment and technological tools. 
  2. Implement a review system involving skilled moderators capable of interpreting context and understanding nuances. 
  3. Encourage open communication within your moderation team to collectively address ambiguous cases and adapt guidelines accordingly. 
  4. Turn to technological solutions to identify patterns and trends, ensuring a more comprehensive and adaptive content moderation strategy. 

Implement a Consistent Moderation Process

Your moderation framework should establish a set of guidelines applicable to all content, allowing for a standardized evaluation of any flagged comments. This uniform approach ensures consistency and promotes transparency and fairness. 

Here’s a basic decision-making framework that can help moderators implement your guidelines:

  1. Review flagged comments or content: Read through the content or comments that allegedly violate your guidelines and compare them against the predetermined acceptability standards. 
  2. Hide content or comments in violation: Promptly hide content or comments that clearly violate the guidelines to uphold community standards.
  3. Follow the process for gray areas: Defer to your review process for gray-area comments using a combination of human judgment and technological tools to decide how to proceed.
  4. Ensure consistency and adaptability: Establish a systematic and adaptive strategy that maintains consistent and fair content moderation while adapting to changes in policy, culture, and more. 

Continuously Improve and Evaluate

Effective moderation doesn’t end with creating guidelines. Ideally, your policies are continually reviewed, assessed, and refined to ensure they are the best expression of your company culture. As you do so, you’ll continue to gain the trust and loyalty of your users by being responsive to ongoing concerns and keeping your online space healthy.

Here are a few steps you should take to ensure your guidelines are an accurate reflection of your organization’s current values and priorities.

Regularly Review and Update the Content Moderation Guidelines 

No matter how strong your initial moderation guidelines are, they must be reviewed and updated occasionally. Listen to user feedback, stay attuned to evolving trends, and be flexible in addressing emerging challenges. Regularly revisit your guidelines so they meet users’ wants and needs and align with the changing culture of each social media platform. 

Measure Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Metrics matter. It’s easier to gauge the success of your new content moderation guidelines when you track key performance indicators (KPIs). Evaluating metrics like user engagement and reported violations will give you the insights required to shape your guidelines and content moderation practices according to data, not theory.

Promote Open Communication and Collaboration 

Moderation isn’t a solo act but a collaborative effort. Create a culture of collaboration within your organization where insights are shared, concerns are addressed, and the whole team works together to maintain a safe and vibrant digital space.

Exploring Effective Moderation Tools

Maintaining a safe and respectful online space demands a combination of moderation tools in conjunction with effective guidelines. By taking advantage of various tools and methodologies, your brand can establish a comprehensive and proactive moderation strategy.

Here are some tools and strategies you may use to help you maintain a safe and engaging online environment:

  • Manual review involves human moderators meticulously examining potentially harmful content. 
  • Automated tools with keyword-flagging mechanisms efficiently flag unsafe content for further evaluation. 
  • Sentiment analysis tools determine the emotion behind comments and identify more nuanced language. 
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms enhance the capabilities of automated tools by understanding context and subtleties within language use. 

These tools can be used in isolation but are more effective when used together.   

The Role of AI in Content Moderation — and Its Limitations

Traditional AI is prevalent in many existing social media moderation solutions. However, it has inherent limitations that many people don’t consider. It operates using past data, which makes it less adaptive to evolving trends. Traditional AI also lacks a continuous learning capability, so it quickly becomes outdated as language and social media dynamics evolve. 

Adopt Three Layers of Protection for Your Brand on Social

While many moderation solutions on the market rely on traditional AI, Respondology uses generative AI to learn continuously and ensure your moderation efforts can adapt to the latest social media trends and linguistic nuances. 

Our comment moderation solution features three layers of protection: 

  1. Customizable filters that give you control of what’s hidden based on your brand’s unique keywords and thresholds.
  2. Groundbreaking generative AI that fine-tunes your moderation approach based on data from your dashboard and human moderators.
  3. A team of 1,000+ human moderators adds a critical human touch to evaluate nuanced situations.  

Together, these layers form a shield that safeguards your online reputation in real-time.

Book a demo with Respondology today to start elevating your brand defense.

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