Trust and Safety (T&S) is no longer just good to have, it is one of the most critical business functions for any organization that has a presence in the digital world. Read on to learn about six strategies that can be deployed to bolster your T&S capabilities even as the fear of a recession looms large.
Multiple economic indicators are signaling that a recession is in the cards. Soaring inflation rates, the geopolitical shocks caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, and the lingering impact of COVID-19 continue to take a toll on the global economy. The US economy is expected to contract by 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter, and a more severe impact is predicted for the UK and the European region.
Contrary to previous recessions, the high-tech industry is the most impacted of all segments. Layoffs have been among the many cost optimization measures the industry has adopted to navigate these uncertain times. Over 93,000 employees have been laid off in the US alone so far.
Opportunity to rethink the current T&S practices
Regardless of the macroeconomic situation, T&S remains critical for all businesses that host user-generated content on digital platforms. The recession may be a short-term phenomenon, but it clearly presents enterprises an opportunity to re-examine their current T&S practices and determine how to do the work more efficiently over the long term.
Here are some strategies that enterprises can consider to optimize their T&S/content moderation investments:
- Consider outsourcing as an option: Maintaining and managing a large talent pool for T&S can be costly. Companies also need to take into account the incremental costs of creating a wellness infrastructure for employees and continuously training them on the latest regulations. In addition to potential cost benefits, outsourcing enables businesses to manage and moderate user-generated content in various niche and mainstream languages at a global scale, while ensuring accuracy and agility in response. The recession warrants enterprises to evaluate the sustainability of maintaining in-house T&S teams in the long run
- Identify the most viable shoring mix: Offshoring T&S is an effective way to cut costs while maintaining the same quality. In a bid to optimize costs during the economic slowdown, certain large tech firms have already shifted their T&S capabilities from the US and Europe to cost-effective locations such as India and South East Asia.
Enterprises even can consider leveraging certain non-traditional delivery regions such as Africa and Latin America, which offer significant cost arbitrage opportunities. Some of these regions have relatively high maturity for the delivery of certain trust and safety services (e.g., Kenya has high maturity in the delivery of data annotation services). Sourcing from certain locations also can fit in well with broader environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives of firms
- Adopt a pragmatic approach to digital investments: Large tech firms’ T&S strategies have always been to build the technology in-house and partner with third-party service providers to leverage their talent pool for any human intervention required. As building technology for every new type of threat may not be economically viable, “buying” or “partnering” with the relevant technology providers can be a better long-term alternative. Several digital platforms already have resorted to mergers and acquisitions to boost their T&S capabilities – Microsoft’s acquisition of Two Hat and Reddit’s acqui-hiring of Oterlu being the most notable examples.
Another trend to keenly observe is the growing number of partnerships among service providers and technology providers. This is a move that can unlock Artificial Intelligence (AI)-human synergies and lead to further cost and process efficiencies. Enterprises need to evaluate how these collaborations can be effectively leveraged as part of their T&S strategy.
- Leverage alternative talent models for non-sensitive work types within T&S: Alternative talent constructs such as the gig workforce and contractual workforce are cost-effective alternatives to full-time agents, Everest Group research While the gig workforce is not deployed to moderate egregious content due to persisting concerns around data privacy and ensuring the well-being of moderators, these workers can be extensively used to handle non-egregious content moderation and other trust and safety tasks (data annotation, translation, etc.).
In fact, a hybrid model that involves gig workers and full-time employees is becoming more prevalent in the market. From 2019-2021, the share of the gig workforce in translation and localization and transcription services in the service provider workforce has grown 20% and 28%, respectively. At the same time, the full-time employee growth rate for these services has been less than 10% and 3%, according to Everest Group research
- Engage in discussions on creative constructs: Many organizations are already deploying proactive threat detection tools and T&S solutions that can minimize human intervention by analyzing the context. Innovation in talent management and well-being facilities can reduce the backfill costs from attrition and create a more resilient workforce. Adopting innovative commercial constructs such as Experience Level Agreements (XLAs) that supplement Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can help enterprises drive business value while optimizing spending. Innovation should be a major criterion for any organization in its T&S investment strategy and when engaging with third-party suppliers
- Reduce the portfolio risk: Enterprises can de-risk their portfolio by diversifying the supplier mix. This would require them to identify “at-risk” vendors and to have an active plan for business continuity. Leveraging a healthy mix of global and local providers would help in maintaining a localized flavor in service delivery while optimizing costs.
Trust and Safety outlook for 2023
With newer content formats such as metaverse and generative AI gaining popularity, the volume and variety of malicious content on the internet are expected to surge. Additionally, regulators across the world continue to tighten their grip on social media and hold them accountable for the content on their platforms.
Hence, organizations need to tread carefully and keep growing their T&S capabilities to ensure a safe experience for their users. They should not be overly focused on cost and must weigh the risks arising from making any changes to their T&S function. Given the current trends, the fast-paced growth that the content moderation market has been witnessing in the previous years is bound to continue near term.
Learn about the importance of the wellbeing of human moderators in content moderation in this webinar, Sustainable Moderation: The “Impact” of “Sourcing” on Trust & Safety.