Shared Services / Global In-house Centers Leading in Digital Services Expansion
While the numbers vary depending on the source, there are give or take three billion social media users around the world in 2019. With the associated dramatic increase in manipulative and malicious content, there’s been an explosion in the market for content moderation services.
Based on our interactions with leading global enterprises and service providers, here are the four key trends impacting the content moderation services industry.
Given the exponential rise of inappropriate online content like political propaganda, spam, violence, disturbing videos, dangerous hoaxes, and other extreme content, most governments have instituted or begun creating policies to regulate social networking, video, and e-commerce sites. As a result, social media companies are facing mounting legislative pressures to curate all content generated on their platforms.
The following image shows how seriously these companies are taking the issue. And note that these numbers only account for outsourced content moderation services, not internally managed content moderation.
Orange boxes indicate CAGR / Y-o-Y growth over the years
Technological capabilities – ranging from robotic process automation (RPA) to automate repetitive manual process steps, to AI-assisted decision support tools, to AI-enabled task automation of review steps – have certainly emerged as key levers to help social media companies protect their communities and scale their content management operations. For example, established tech giants including Microsoft and Google, as well as fast-growing start-ups, have been investing in developing scalable AI content solutions that deliver faster business value and safer conditions.
While technology will continue to play a big role, it certainly isn’t the be-all, end-all. The judgement-intensive nature of content moderation work requires the human touch. Indeed, with the increasing complexity of the work and the rising regulatory oversight requirements, the need for human employees as part of the content moderation equation will continue to grow significantly.
Content moderation is an extremely difficult job, at times monotonous and at others disturbing. As not everyone is cut out for the role, companies need to assess candidates against multiple criteria, including:
Because all countries have unique cultural, regional, and socio-political nuances, the traditional offshore/nearshore-centric location selection strategies that work for standard IT and business process services won’t work for content moderation work. Companies seeking outsourced content moderation services need to look at regional hubs alongside multiple local centers to succeed. In the short-term, this means working with leading providers with hyper-localized delivery centers and rising local providers in the target countries.
Here’s what we see coming down the pike in the increasingly complex content moderation space.
Major digital services delivered from tier-2/3 Indian cities: social & interactive, cloud, analytics, automation, mobility, cyber security
Try saying “WhatsApp bro?” in Sanskrit. Not working? Turn to good old Patanjali.
On May 30, yoga guru Ramdev’s firm launched Kimbho, marking its entry into India’s instant messaging landscape which is dominated by Facebook-owned WhatsApp with over 200 million users.
Though it seems nearly impossible for Kimbho to beat a behemoth like WhatsApp, Yugal Joshi, vice-president of Texas-based consulting and research firm Everest Group, warns against undermining the power of the made-in-India sentiment.
Were you as riveted as I was by Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal?
Here are my key takeaways on the future of the services industry supporting social media and the increasingly digital world.
We are hurtling towards a truly digital economy where data is the key commodity. In such an economy, companies with access to data and, more importantly, the ability to make sense out of it through analytics tools will reign supreme.
It is not difficult to imagine a world where most corporate movements and conflicts center around data – lack of it, desire to access it and acquire better analytics tools, improper/unethical/overuse of it, and inadequate protection of it.
Internet of things and social media platforms can capture zillions of data points, and will potentially be important tools that supply this new currency to the ecosystem. However, market success will depend heavily on who has the business acumen and analytical power to churn data into insights and useful products. This will apply across sectors, but will be critical for BFSI, CPG, retail, and healthcare segments.
Data will not just be hard, like names, addresses, and IP addresses. It will also be soft, such as sentiments, propensity to buy, satisfaction, and the likelihood that a given customer will be a leading adopter. IoT and other data capture/analysis tools will need to change rapidly to accommodate these factors. Whether the claims of Facebook storing 29,000 data points on each individual are true or not, the data it does store keeps track of not just actions but also interest and intent, e.g., browsing but not actually buying a product.
In this new world, data security will be paramount – akin to safeguarding money! That makes cybersecurity a critical prong of a digital strategy.
The U.S. legislative bodies have demonstrated considerable interest in introducing new legislation oriented around this new data economy. My expectation is that the U.S. will mirror the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR,) at least in intent and punitive measures, although the exact tenets may differ, and may be more expansive.
In order to continue to be amenable, operating locations for U.S. and European firms and their back-and middle-offices and IT centers, offshore services delivery countries like Argentina, Costa Rica, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Mexico will have to mirror the EU GDPR and U.S. regulations, and upgrade their data protection laws.
Alleged Russian interference in the Brexit vote and the 2016 U.S. presidential election, purported hacking by Western nations into Iranian nuclear reactors, political propaganda on social media, and the umpteen social media wars fought by even governments and elected officials all mean one thing: the Cold War has now gone digital. Against such a backdrop, technology and digital tools have come out of the back rooms of global businesses and into the front rooms of politics and governments.
With their strong emphasis on digital, we foresee governments increasingly investing in it to out-compete other countries. We also expect the public sector to increase their investments in cybersecurity.
Huge emphasis will be placed on a breadth of content moderation services – this includes content review, sentiment analysis, context analysis (e.g., distinguishing between hate speech and valid political dissent), and moderation.
While content moderation was previously viewed as low-value and transactional, the intense heat that social media platforms are facing will change it into a far more important process that involves a fair degree of decision-making. We might even see the most complex streams of content moderation leveraging legal professionals as agents. See my next point.
Because of the huge impact of social media content on almost everything in today’s world – politics (e.g., Brexit and the U.S. elections), the economy (e.g., Snapchat losing US$1.3 billion after a tweet by Kylie Jenner), entertainment, sports, and arts – content moderation will become a heavily regulated and watched process. Liabilities from social media fails will typically run into billions, and so will penalties.
Senator Ted Cruz raised a question related to the political leanings of moderation agents themselves, bringing into focus the larger issue of biases. Over-moderation will also be under scrutiny, meaning that content moderators will need to walk an extremely thin line.
With the explosion of social media across the nooks and crannies of the world, content moderation capabilities will need to keep pace. Facebook already has a team of up to 20,000 professionals moderating content, and that number is bound to leap up significantly in the near term, until AI and automation become smarter.
In our work with global service providers, we are seeing a huge ramp-up in demand for content moderation teams across all developed and emerging markets, and even for languages that were not previously supported by contact center or BPO service providers in any meaningful scale. Mark Zuckerberg himself gave the example of the need to increase Burmese language moderation due to the Rohingya crisis.
The trick for service providers to be successful in such as market will be to have a ready map of where they might be able to access just about any language in just about any kind of scale, because no one knows where the next crisis and related social media content may erupt.
Finally, but probably the most critical game changer in all this, is the role of AI and automation. At a point it will no longer be financially prudent to support the content moderation process with a people-intensive model, especially with the potential demand that can arise in a matter of hours in languages that are traditionally extremely hard to support. In such a scenario, companies with natural language processing and sentiment analysis tools that can make increasingly smarter decisions related to content management will be successful. Service providers and technology vendors that can develop such tools will find a ripe market to sell into!
While human judgment will still be required, IT tools can potentially be trained in an unlimited number of languages and dialects to take care of the bulk of business as usual content.
That’s as far as the eye can see today. But we are poised to see an exciting new world where entirely new tussles lead to some companies emerging as winners and others fading into obscurity as losers.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please feel free to contact me at: [email protected].
Digital Force Multiplier: A cloud adoption story in banking and financial services
Maps enterprises’ technology investment priorities along two axes: priority and impact timing
Digital services deals by segment, 2016
The general insurance (GI) industry has largely remained silent in a world where conversations either begin or end with the word “digital.” Products and services from the traditional GI providers have failed to keep tempo with the rapid technological developments happening everywhere else. One reason for this is that GI offerings are low-touch products about which customers interact with the provider just once or twice a year. Another is that GI providers have traditionally not focused on customer experience or value generation for their clients. They lag the Ubers and Amazons of the world by many miles.
However, the landscape has started to change recently due to the entry of disruptive start-ups trying to bridge the gap between service delivery and customer expectations. Areas gaining traction include price comparison services and mobile-based services. The real standout is peer-to-peer (P2P) insurance. It has gained more market buzz because the business model is not as opaque as the traditional model and provides clear benefits for the customers.
The P2P insurance business model
P2P insurance is a novel model facilitated by social media. Customers form their own online networks, and each pools in money to build a corpus. They allocate some portion of the fund to the mutual pool and pay the balance to a traditional insurer. When a claim must be made, members pull money from the mutual pool. If a claim exceeds the mutual pool corpus, they approach the reinsurer. If the claim is less than in the mutual pool, the remaining amount is distributed back to the members.
What are the benefits?
How does this disrupt the status-quo?
In the medium to long term, as this model gains maturity and acceptance, customers may switch to the P2P model. This will shrink the market share held by traditional players. Reduced demand for traditional insurance plans, coupled with increased supply, will drive down prices. Thus, customers are likely to benefit in the end.
Who are the current prominent P2P start-ups?
These companies are the hot start-ups in this space for a number of reasons. First, they are the early movers that have leveraged cutting-edge technology tenets such as social media and mobility. Second, they are trying to tackle a real business problem and, in the process, are improving efficiency in the market. Finally, they are managing to raise substantial funding from prominent investors such as Sequoia Capital and Horizons Ventures.
An urge for innovation in the industry, coupled with high potential demand from the customers, will drive further disruptions in the GI market. Start-ups are likely to be the vanguard in this evolution, by introducing value generating products and services. Sooner than later, the traditional players will wake up to the new normal, and will try to catch up by either acquiring these start-ups or partnering with them. Ultimately, the end-customers will be the beneficiaries, as competition forces the prices down and innovation drives the quality of services up.