Content Moderation

How Visual Search is Used in Content Moderation

How Visual Search is Used in Content Moderation

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Visual Search for content moderation – a deep dive 

Visual search is an incredibly powerful tool that can be applied to a variety of use cases. It works particularly effectively in the context of content moderation, where businesses need to prevent certain things from being uploaded or published on their platforms. 

Visual Content ModeartionBe Sure To Also Read ->Visual Content Moderation Use Case Overview

What is Visual Search? 

When most people think of the term “visual search”, they will typically think of reverse image search engines, but there is so much more to it than just that. 

Visual search is an innovative technology that separates us from the need to rely on words and complicated algorithms and instead allows us to find what we need. Input an image and it will help your users or your software locate visually identical or similar imagery in a fraction of a second. It’s a rather exciting piece of technology that has the potential to revolutionize not just search engines and e-commerce platforms as we are seeing already, but also anti-phishing software, brand monitoring, ad monitoring and, as will be discussed here, content moderation. 


The challenges that exist in content moderation 

Content moderation is a relatively new and increasingly important operation in a large number of businesses but it is not without its challenges. 

Whether we’re looking at print-on-demand companies, gaming platforms or social media, the challenges are much the same. 

1. Striking the right balance

Keeping all parties happy when it comes to your platform is of utmost importance, and it’s difficult to strike the balance between protecting users and the integrity of your platform, and preventing self-expression. 

2. Employee Safety 

Employees working in a content moderation operation are highly likely to develop symptoms of PTSD and depression due to the many disturbing scenes within the content they have to moderate. 

3. Misinterpreting content 

It’s not uncommon to hear about safe content being removed or people receiving bans for sharing acceptable content that automated text-based moderation systems, or indeed exhausted employees, may have deemed to be unsafe for the platform. This can cause serious drop-offs in users. Meanwhile, many offensive or abusive items remain online because they have managed to evade automated detection systems. 

4. New risks

New risks arise all the time when it comes to keeping users safe and remaining compliant with communication and content guidelines. Not to mention the fact that certain types of content are allowed in one region, while it may be banned in another. This leaves your platform vulnerable, and can also incur a lot of costs in retraining employees. 

5. Volume

Of course, volume is a serious challenge. How can we expect humans to manage thousands, or even millions, depending on the platform, of incoming images and videos? There are bound to be many mistakes and omissions, which employees simply can’t be blamed for. Even Mark Zuckerberg admits there are 100s of thousands of mistakes made in content moderation on Facebook every day. 

Content Moderation Dashboard

Visual Search for Content Moderation 

So how can visual search help businesses successfully face up to these common challenges? 

Regardless of your industry, visual search will operate in much the same way. It enables your moderation software to spot identical or similar imagery in communications taking place on or media being uploaded to your platform. Think about recurring themes, like memes, or a troublesome image or video clip that goes viral and is posted by millions of people. You need a fast and efficient way to recognise these similar images, and that’s where visual search comes in.

1. Social Media and User Generated Content Platforms 

Social Media’s impact on culture and society at large is almost unfathomable. As its hold on not only the zeitgeist but also our daily routines and habits strengthens, the need to safely moderate it becomes more and more difficult when relying only on text-based detection and human moderation. 

With Visual Search, any image or video scene can be checked against an ‘unsafe’ or ‘problem’ list where previously flagged and/or blocked media has been added. If the new image/video matches against any in the unsafe list it can be quickly dealt with.

Of course, images can be altered through cropping or have elements added, like text and icons, so Visual Search also allows a ‘percentage matching’ option to either ignore anything which is not a 100% match, or include those near matches.. 

2. Ecommerce platforms

Ecommerce platforms are being held to task on an increasing basis by manufacturers, rights holders and government agencies. There have been a number of high-profile legal cases which have seen platforms being penalised for allowing counterfeit and copyright infringed items to be sold on their platforms. A minority of platforms are also being found to sell illicit goods with those listing the products with misleading names and descriptions while others are facing huge backlash resulting in boycotting due to the sale of clothing with offensive slogans and connotations. 

Counterfeiters or those that wish to exploit a brand’s copyright/trademark, will often just re-use popular imagery in their listing. Visual Search enables ecommerce moderation systems to check for the use of these images, so immediate action can be taken. However, it can also match against specific product or packaging designs. So even if the counterfeiter creates a fake product and creates their own photography, Visual Search can compare and flag the images based on the visual similarity to the genuine product. Ultimately, any product can be highlighted and blocked with a take down request to the seller, or even proactively blocked when adding the listing. This lifts a lot of burden off the trust and safety team and makes it much easier to remain compliant. 

3. Live Streaming platforms

Live streaming videos are particularly difficult to moderate because of their real-time nature. Your moderation software needs to be able to instantly detect threatening, offensive or vulgar visuals and block them just as quickly. As visual search equips your software with the ability to spot specific images or likenesses to them in real-time, it is the perfect solution for this challenge. 

4. Image/Video hosting

Video hosting services often struggle to stay on top of those using their platforms who have agendas that go against their policies. Visual Search can check videos at a high frame-rate, analysing their entire content and comparing it to known images or scenes that simply don’t belong on the hosting platform. 

Want To Talk??? 

VISUA is the leader in visual search with real-time capabilities. If you wish to explore the inclusion of visual search into your moderation tech stack, get in touch by filling out the form below. 

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