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Prioritizing Moderator Wellbeing in the Fight Against Harmful Content

By April 12, 2024No Comments

The internet, particularly social media, thrives on connection. It’s a space for sharing ideas, fostering communities, and sparking movements. But lurking beneath the surface can be a sinister undercurrent of negativity. Social media platforms are constantly bombarded with harmful content, from hate speech and misinformation to harassment and violent threats. We understand that Trust & Safety isn’t just a department – it’s the bedrock of a healthy online environment. 

Effectively addressing harmful content requires a human touch.  A dedicated team of moderators acts as digital frontline, wading through the darkest corners of the web to keep users safe.  However, content moderation is a double-edged sword.  While moderators play a vital role in protecting our community, they are constantly exposed to offensive and disturbing content. This can lead to burnout, secondary trauma, and mental health issues.  Studies [Spence et al., 2023] have shown a concerning prevalence of PTSD and depression among moderators. 

Investing in the Humans Behind the Curtain 

We can’t talk about Trust & Safety without acknowledging the human cost.  That’s why prioritizing our content moderation team’s wellbeing is not a nicety – it’s a necessity. Here’s how to create a supportive environment for the people who keep platforms safe: 

Building a Safety Net of Support: Providing moderators with access to a comprehensive suite of resources, including counselling services, health insurance including psychological inpatient and outpatient care, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), and facilitated group interventions by licensed/accredited mental health professionals. These resources offer moderators a safe space to process their experiences and receive the support they need to maintain their psychological and emotional wellbeing. Ensuring access to resources is available during working hours – and that there are no penalties associated with utilizing resources throughout their shift – enhances a sense of psychological safety and in turn, fidelity to the organization. 

Equipping Our Protectors: Offering extensive training and development programs throughout the entire career journey. Train moderators on processes, systems, and policies but, also equip  them with the tools and skills they need to protect themselves emotionally. Proper training empowers moderators to make informed decisions and navigate difficult situations with confidence. 

Clear Guidelines and Defined Processes: Ambiguity breeds stress. That’s why having clear and concise content moderation guidelines are essential. These guidelines ensure consistency in decision-making and minimize the risk of confusion or subjectivity. Moderators are empowered to act efficiently and confidently, knowing they have a clear framework to support their judgment. We understand that policy development and enforcement isn’t always clear cut – nuance and context play a large part in enforcement strategies globally. However, the clearer you can be, the better. 

Limiting Exposure and Fostering Connection: Constant exposure to negativity can be overwhelming. Implementing rotation schedules to minimize a moderator’s time spent with particularly disturbing content can be helpful for some. We do acknowledge that some moderators may prefer to specialize in certain types of abuse areas, though. If this is the case, then provide as much as autonomy as you can to your moderation teams while balancing their psychological health and wellbeing. Additionally, foster a supportive community among moderators. Through open communication and shared experiences, moderators can build connections and find solace knowing they’re not alone in facing these challenges [Gaffney & Alford, 2018]. 

The Ripple Effect of a Healthy Moderation Team 

Investing in moderator wellbeing isn’t just the ethical thing to do – it’s essential for maintaining a safe and thriving online space. Here’s how prioritizing moderator wellbeing directly translates to a better experience for everyone: 

Improved Accuracy: Focused and supported moderators are better equipped to make accurate decisions about content. This reduces the risk of wrongly removing harmless content or allowing harmful content to slip through the cracks. 

Faster Response Times: By prioritizing moderator wellbeing, we can foster a stable and healthy moderation team. This translates to faster response times when harmful content is flagged, allowing the teams to address issues swiftly and effectively. 

Positive User Experience: When users feel safe and protected from online harassment and negativity, they’re more likely to have a positive experience on the platform. This fosters a more engaged and vibrant online community for everyone. 


In the constant fight against harmful content, prioritizing moderator wellbeing isn’t a competitive advantage – it’s a shared responsibility. By investing in the moderation team, social media organizations invest in the future of their platforms, the health of our online community, and the creation of a safer and more positive online experience for all. 

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