May 26, 2022 8:00 p.m.
Being on the internet has become a regular part of our everyday life. According to the latest statistics, 3.96 billion people use social media globally, with each person spending an average of 147 minutes or two hours and seven minutes on digital platforms every day.
These are significant figures if you look at them from the context of the level of exposure we get from the digital platforms we access.
Over the last few years, the internet has played a pivotal role in society–building businesses and new industries, creating new needs, and of course, shaping the mindset of the public as a whole. Without a doubt, the internet has become so powerful that it can shape generations and the way they think and act as a whole.
But have you ever wondered how information is sifted and checked in the online worlds we love to immerse ourselves in?
Websites and applications, big and small, have community guidelines that protect their users from being exposed to harmful information, but who exactly are the people working behind the scenes and doing the heavy lifting of screening this information?
In this article, we will talk about the sentinels of the internet and the plight that comes with their profession.
Meet the Content Moderators.
Content Moderation in a Nutshell
Content moderation, at its simplest, is the process of screening and monitoring user-generated content posted on online platforms.
Whenever a user submits or uploads something to a website, moderators go through the content to make sure that the material follows the community regulations and is not criminal or illegal in nature.
Some examples of banned content that content moderators screen are those that contain sexual themes, drugs, bigotry, homophobia, harassment, and racism.
While content moderation is applied to a majority of online platforms, they are even more so practiced in websites with a heavy lean toward user-generated uploads.
This includes social media platforms, online marketplaces, communities and forums, the sharing economy, and even dating sites.
There are two different types of content moderation that websites use: AI-automated and human moderation.
In the first type, a machine learning system is designed to moderate posts based on previous data gathered from the internet.
AI moderation is significantly faster–sometimes only taking seconds to review posts, but it might not always be 100 percent accurate because it relies on machine learning which may not always pick up the right cues.
Human moderation, on the other hand, is a manual type of process that involves an actual person who reviews the posts.
Under this category, the screener follows specific platform rules and guidelines to check the user-generated content submitted to the website. While this type of moderation is more foolproof than its counterpart, it also takes more time due to its manual nature.
Moreover, it also presents a serious problem within its workforce that unfortunately, is not often well addressed: mental distress.
The Dark Side of Content Moderation
While content moderation remains to be a discreet profession, at least in the Philippines, more and more people who have worked in the field have stepped up over the recent years to speak up about the challenges and dangers that are prevalent in the industry.
A riveting 2018 internationally produced documentary titled ‘The Cleaners’ gave an exhaustive look at the plight of moderators in the country who worked for online giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and tackled the subject of their mental health struggles from their job.
Facebook itself has acknowledged the difficulties that come with the profession while Microsoft has faced lawsuits from former employees who claim that they were not given proper support despite the psychological dangers of their job.
Moderators sift through hundreds of submissions that contain triggering content not limited to depictions of death, torture, mutilation, and violence for hours, sometimes with only limited time for breaks.
The nature of the work can lead to the development of mental distress and psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and even depression.
On top of that, workers in the said areas have also been stated to suffer more from burnout, relationship challenges, and even suicide.
The following are other mental health problems that can arise from exposure to toxic content:
- Panic attacks – some moderators have expressed feeling attacks when being around animals and children–fearing something will happen to them–after repeated exposure to violent videos.
- Normalization/Desensitization to disturbing humor and language – repetitive exposure to disturbing content can change the mindsets and perspectives of its audience, leading to inappropriate humor and language.
- Self-destructive habits – alcoholism, use of drugs, and display of indiscriminate sexual habits have supposedly also been reported in the workplaces of moderators who presumedly engage in them as a way of emotional escape to their job.
- Skewed beliefs – in some cases, some content moderators can also develop fringe views (e.g. believing conspiracy theories) that are not supported by hard facts because of constant exposure to their materials.
The Cost of Internet Safety
Without a doubt, content moderators serve as the first layer of protection of the general public from disturbing and harmful materials.
Unfortunately, they are not always properly protected from the rigors that come with their profession.
Unlike different workplaces (for example, those in the health sector, law and policing, and journalism) which have more solid guidelines when it comes to taking care of the mental needs of their workforce, there is an obvious lack of the same system for those working in the content moderation industry.
In an article by Harvard, it is even said that companies are even very restrictive about letting others investigate their existing procedures and treatment of these workers.
Not only are there no third parties monitoring the welfare of employees, but people working in the industry are also commonly asked to refrain from talking about their work through non-disclosure contracts.
Fortunately, some companies have also taken the initiative to develop workplace guidelines that can improve the treatment of those in the industry.
Facebook, for example, helped create the Technology Coalition which then designed the Employee Resilience Guidebook, a guide that outlines rules protecting the occupational health and safety of workers reviewing distressing content.
While the guidelines were made for those who are focused on employees dealing with child pornography, it also has terms that can be used for others in professions that expose workers to distressing imagery and content.
Specifically, the guide includes rules such as the provision of mandatory individual and group counseling sessions with a certified trauma specialist, limiting exposure to disturbing content for four hours, giving employees the choice to opt out of viewing specific disturbing content, encouraging them to switch to other projects as a form of relief, and giving them enough time to take a break and recover from their work.
Protecting the Protectors
While overarching guidelines are already being developed on a global scale, it cannot be debated that a huge chunk of the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the employers who are in a better position to observe and improve the best practices in this area.
Here at Infinit Care, for example, we follow a tried and tested framework, the Mental Health Continuum, to make sure that every employee working in high-risk professions gets the mental health support that they need, wherever they are on the scale – whether they are excelling, surviving or in crises. (Click here to know more about the Mental Health Continuum.)
Our Head of Clinical Care Shyne Mangulabnan suggests several ways on how employers can put this to work.
“Having a counseling professional who can help these employees is essential as well as having a solid support and assessment system for them. For example, surveys given to agents which can be used as a reference for the design of a wellness strategy is a good place to start. Constant monitoring of employees should also be done to make sure that their needs are met.”
On top of that, Mangulabnan also suggests creating proper escalation procedures for concerns relating to the mental health challenges of content moderators.
Proper education of important stakeholders within the company (human resource team, upper management) about mental health risks of the job is also necessary since they are the decision-makers who create systems that take care of employees.
“It would be best to have an end-to-end solution: an onboarding process that gives candidates the training and education they need to understand the risks and concepts of well-being, round-the-clock onsite and virtual counseling services, community support groups, yoga and meditation activities, and workshops are just some of the many things that employers can initiate to make sure that they give the support that their workforce needs.”
True enough, it is the responsibility of employers to make sure that they ‘protect the protectors’ of the internet.
However, it’s not only the content moderators who should be given this kind of support, especially with 43 percent of the global workforce expressing that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the stress that they suffer from work.
This story is just the first chapter of a series that will shed light on all the professions who need mental health support most in these trying times.
Do you need help on how you can start caring for your employees in this aspect? We’d be more than happy to guide you here at Infinit Care. We are a company that helps other companies provide comprehensive mental health care support to their employees through the use of science-backed methodologies. You can reach out to us here to know more about how we can help.
URCC 81: Decades of Success happens Dec. 6 in Okada
November 27, 2022 7:22 p.m.
THE Universal Reality Combat Championship will celebrate two decades of greatness titled the “Decades of Success” in a fight night on December 6, featuring the country’s best mixed martial artists at the Okada Manila in Parañaque City.
Three years since the last time they held their last main event, URCC founding president Alvin Aguilar announced the coming URCC 81 will definitely be a night to remember with events like the 3 Versus 3, MMA fight and the bare-knuckle bouts.
“Our first main event in three years will definitely be an unforgettable night in mixed martial arts. We have a lot of good fighters and everyone is very excited,” Aguilar said.
The last time URCC held a main event — Retribution— was in November 2019, at the same venue. Despite the pandemic, URCC didn’t stop as it held three fight nights when the government finally allowed contact sports.
In celebrating URCC’s main event return, Aguilar will be having Team Philippines of Sugar Ray “Mammoth” Estroso, Caloy “Bad Boy” Baduria and Boss Bullet Manliclic taking up against South Koreans Jeong Minhun, Choi Wontae and Jeon Youngjun in an exciting 3 versus 3 event.
“We have to go up against other Asian countries before we start expanding. So we meet Korea then later on China again and then we will invite people from Russia and the USA. This is the fourth time we will be holding this 3 versus 3 fight,” Aguilar said, who also expects the other events to live up to the hype.
A URCC welterweight interim championship is also set between Filipino Arvin Chan and American Will Chope as the other highlight of the main event presented by Okada Manila and sponsored by Winzir.
URCC Global Chairman Arnold Vegafria said the promotions have been evolving since 2002, becoming a household name in the local mixed martial arts industry, where it discovered great MMA fighters and promoted quality fights abroad.
For inquiries about tickets sale, go to www.urcc.online and download app https://apps.wix.com/place-invites/join-lp/b4e05b90-55a0-40a8-8fac-17ccf4a2c074?ref=pre_banner_top which is available for iOS and Google.
Other MMA undercard bouts feature Dunlee Stewart facing John Tirona in a 170 lbs bout, followed by Gester Maglaque meeting Mariano Jones in an 185 lbs bout; Kimbert Alintozon battling Junie Kimayong (125 lbs); Rhyle Lugo clashing against Alex Aballe (145 lbs) and Eros Baluyot taking on MJ Abrillo (125 lbs).
For the thrilling bare-knuckle competitions, Damsa Abrenica collides with Joseph “King Pinoy” Cabral, while Dondon Serrano squares off with Sherwin Niro and Denzel Dimaguila fights Mark Jalaron.
Details of the fight and future fight cards are available to download at https://apps.wix.com/place-invites/join-lp/b4e05b90-55a0-40a8-8fac-17ccf4a2c074?ref=pre_banner_top, which is available for iOS and Google.
BingoPlus Foundation’s FutureSmart Scholarship Program 2022 funds 10 IT scholars
Nov. 21, 2022 12:51 p.m.
BingoPlus Foundation Inc., the corporate arm of leisure entertainment brand BingoPlus, has made education one of its causes to support with a PhP6 million scholarship granted to iACADEMY under its FutureSmart Scholarship 2022 Program.
Officers of the Foundation signed an agreement with representatives of iACADEMY to sponsor ten students last November 2 at the head office of Leisure & Resorts World Corporation (LRWC) at Tektite Building in Pasig.
With its specialization in the field of information technology, iACADEMY was seen as the perfect partner school for BP Foundation as it aligns well with the Foundation’s vision to create IT-competent professionals in the future. BingoPlus Foundation firmly believes that education and technology are important components of nation-building and has thus prioritized the FutureSmart Scholarship 2022 Program as one of its top Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives of the year.
Through the scholarship, the Foundation aims to address some challenges faced by the education sector to provide more and better educational opportunities to the younger generation and thus leave its footprint in the building of a better society.
LRWC President Andy Tsui said, “We wish to inspire the younger generation and make their dreams come true.”
“We are truly honored to welcome iACADEMY as a new partner, and we’re grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute to keeping students on the path towards a brighter future,” said Jasper Vicencio, President of BingoPlus and Trustee of BingoPlus Foundation Inc.
The FutureSmart Scholarship 2022 Program will be launched in the current school year of iACADEMY.
Game on! SM Christmas Village is back—and bigger than ever
November 17, 2022 3:50 p.m.
We’re calling it: Christmas 2022 is going to be one for the books.
The past two years saw Filipinos dialing down on the holiday celebrations as we exercised caution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It’s no easy feat, too, given that our Pasko is easily the biggest event of the year. The good—no, aweSM—news? This 2022, SM is set to give you a Christmas comeback like no other with the return of the SM Christmas Village, now on its second year!
In case you didn’t know: SM Supermalls is the very first mall in the Philippines to venture into the metaverse, giving you the first mobile brand rewards app that provides customers with fun and exciting ways to score amazing deals, earn free shopping money, and win wow-worthy prizes—anytime, anywhere!
And here’s proof of just how amazing it is: The pilot run of the ChristmaSaya Village in 2021 recently won four accolades at this year’s Vega Awards, earning nods for outstanding innovation in the digital and virtual realm. Wowza!
Enter the Mall-tiverse
Here’s how it works: To join, a user simply has to register for an account online via smmetaverse.world. Once registered, you gain access to the virtual SM Christmas Village, where you can explore different zones, interact with other players, and collect virtual coins to unlock exclusive shopping vouchers and earn raffle entries. And just like at SM Supermalls nationwide, #YoureAlwaysWelcomeHere
Excited for supercharged virtual fun? Here’s a quick look at what’s in store for you this year:
- Bigger rewards, bigger prizes
If you loved last year’s vouchers, you’re in for even better rewards this time. SM has partnered with more of your favorite brands to give you exclusive shopping discounts and deals (a total of ₱2M worth of vouchers are up for grabs!) and is set to give away a whopping ₱1M worth of raffle prizes. Plus, one lucky winner will drive home the ultimate Christmas gift: a brand new Suzuki S-Presso!
- An expansive game world awaits
Your gaming experience gets a level up with improved game designs and an exciting game world featuring new areas to explore—from shopping and dining zones to entertainment zones—like you’re really at an SM Supermall! Experience augmented reality malling, e-meet friends, and play fun games to earn virtual coins. Before that, have fun customizing your own avatar down to the hair, outfit, and accessories (shopping bag, included), so you can create a character that’s uniquely you.
- Enjoy fresh in-game features
Get your family members in on the Christmas fever with the multiplayer option and stay connected while you play with the new chat and video-calling features. (Looking at you, social butterflies!) Be on the lookout for pop-ups, too, featuring special brand deets and surprise deals with every visit.
- Earn shopping money every day
The more virtual coins you collect in-app, the more “shopping money” you get, which you can use to redeem vouchers from your favorite brands. Once you’ve claimed your vouchers virtually, you can use them at participating SM Mall branches nationwide—to pay for your Christmas shopping, dining, and more! You can also use your coins to unlock raffle entries and win one of the 20 major prizes at the end of the year.
- Visit the village every day to earn more coins faster.
- Excited to shop? You can spend your coins as soon as you earn them, but it pays to be patient, too. By accumulating your coins first, you’ll be able to redeem bigger rewards later on!
- Make sure to explore all the zones and keep an eye out for hidden treasures and bonuses.
A Christmas to remember
With restrictions easing up and COVID-19 vaccination rates at an encouraging high, this year’s holiday season surely is shaping up to be one to look forward to. If you’re jonesing for some real-life Christmas fun, though, you won’t be disappointed when you take a break from the metaverse and make your way to your favorite SM Supermalls instead! From the light shows and holiday centerpieces to all sorts of Christmas attractions, all things merry and bright await you and the whole family—and it all starts now! Check out all the holiday happenings here and have a #HappyChristmasAtSM!
The #SMChristmasVillage2022 will run from October 28, 2022 to January 5, 2023. Voucher redemption will be until January 31, 2023.
To stay updated on all things SM, follow SM Supermalls on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. SM implements strict #SafeMallingAtSM protocols nationwide and offers convenient shopping options via the SM Malls Online app, The SM Store, and ShopSM. (You can read more here.) For updates on mall hours and entry guidelines, click here.