How to Support Content Moderator Wellness in 2020

We started 2020 having no doubt about the importance of content moderation for social platforms. As Talerton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet, writes, “Content moderation is constitutional to the functioning of platforms, essential to what platforms are.” However, I believe that we have yet to fully appreciate the work of moderators, support them, and safeguard their wellbeing.

Take a step back to May 2019, when I spoke at and attended the Content Moderation in 2019 workshop hosted by IAPP. Gillespie was the keynote speaker, and he made a compelling case for redefining the moderator role: not as the custodian responsible for keeping the Internet clean, but rather one of guardianship.

In that same workshop, I witnessed the inception of an idea to create a professional association that would defend the interest of moderators and Trust & Safety professionals. Fast forward a year later, and enter The Trust & Safety Professional Association. The soon-to-launch organization will be focused on advancing the trust and safety profession through a shared community of practice. It’s encouraging to see this happening! Content moderators need support, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that we are spending more time online and moderation duties get more challenging.

“Moderation is the most essential, yet underrated, aspect of social-digital experiences. You couldn’t have an event in Times Square without police officers, Comic-Con couldn’t exist without event staff, and you wouldn’t send your kid to camp without camp counselors. Why should digital experiences be anything else?”

Izzy Neis, Head of Digital at ModSquad (Why Community Moderation Matters)

A critical piece of support needed is the protection of moderator wellbeing. Here at Two Hat, a mission-driven company founded on the ideals of Trust and Safety, we believe in giving moderators the tools and the best practices to ensure that:

  1. The impact of high-risk content on their wellbeing is minimized;
  2. They can focus their time on purposeful moderation, intentionally using their human expertise instead of doing manual work that machines can take care of;
  3. Wellness & resilience is a priority

Reduce Exposure to High-Risk Content

Protecting users from damaging user-generated content like gory images, dangerous/hateful speech, and chat that encourages suicide is a fundamental responsibility for online platforms. Equally important is the need to protect the moderators who ensure your online community remains a productive and thriving space.

Filters that identify and action on abusive behaviors are table stakes. There’s no need to expose moderators to high-risk content that AI can identify and proactively block without the need for human review. Furthermore, by proactively filtering you can immediately reduce the amount of user-generated reports, drastically reducing the workload of moderators.

In a large mobile game, user-generated reports decreased by 88% with the addition of a chat filter
From the e-book Content Moderation in Challenging Times

Purposeful Moderation

The work of a content moderator can feel like an endless battle against an ever-growing pile of content. I know this because I was a moderator once and I felt that challenge every day.

This is why it’s critical for a moderator to feel like they are doing something meaningful and purposeful. Knowing that the work you do every day has a tangible and positive impact on the community and in the world will help you connect and reconnect with why you’re doing that job in the first place. It’s very challenging to moderate and feel that connection without having the right tools, processes, and procedures at your disposal. One of the most important processes is to prioritize staff wellness and resilience.

Wellness & Resilience

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to raise awareness of what content moderators contend with from an emotional point of view. As Pascal Debroek, Head of Customer Service at Hatch Entertainment Ltd. said earlier this year:

“You have to understand that these can also be emotionally draining jobs. Most of these are pure customer-facing, and in a lot of the cases deal with either sensitive topics, aggravated end-users dealing with a situation that did not meet their expectations or even outright insults and threats.

Let’s not forget, most contacts with players stem from an emotional state; happy, sad, angry, you’ll encounter them all in these roles. And because it pays off to be empathetic in such roles, it also means your employees are more susceptible to the emotions that surround them.”

Today, I want to share a critical step you can take with your team to level up everyone’s wellness and resilience: build team and individual wellness plans. A wellness plan is an actionable set of activities that help you manage stress and recharge yourself.

For example, my own personal wellness plan might look something like this:

  1. Play drums for at least 15 minutes a day
  2. Take a short walk when it’s sunny outside
  3. Play video games with my family and friends
  4. Meditate (here’s a link to a 1-month free experience in the meditation app I use)
  5. Phone a friend or family member who knows my area of work and is OK with discussing challenging topics with me. (I had to use this one last year when I returned from a child protection conference and heard lots of stories that were heart-crushing. Hearing about such realities already pays a toll. Imagine those true heroes who review child abuse imagery and help protect kids globally.)
  6. Listen to some of my favorite songs

I hope this inspires you to build your own plan. You can go as specific as you want and as prescriptive as you need. Perhaps you want a set of actions you can take every day. Or maybe you prefer to have a pool of actions you pull from depending on the day. Also, as a moderation team, you can build team activities that help you cope with everyday stress. Playing games together might be a great way to do that. In an age of social distancing, you can play online games and also get creative with games you can play via video conferencing!

Back in 2018, we collaborated with therapist and wellness trainer Carol Brusca on a “Stress, Wellness, and Resilience” training session for Two Hat clients. She also shared her top 10 wellness tips for online moderators and community professionals. We just republished that piece adapting a few points to the new social distancing reality we are living.


If you saw value in these tips and would like to know more about how technology can protect your moderation team’s wellbeing, we can help.

Request a demo today to see how Two Hat’s content moderation platform can reduce your workload and your exposure to harmful content.