Dr Ruth Spence, Dr Jeffrey DeMarco and Dr Elena Martellozzo at Google HQ
Content moderators who are exposed to child abuse images are to get help from MDX academics.
The team from MDX’s Centre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS) plans to develop online training courses that websites and social media companies could provide to the content moderators they employ to help with the mental strains of the job.
Dr DeMarco said: “Our research has truly highlighted the hard work done day in and day out in keeping the public, and children, safe from online harm.
"This is an important moment for researchers at Middlesex University." Dr Elena Martellozzo, CATS
“Content moderators have been clear and our findings have shown the emotional toll this important work has on both their wellbeing and ability to do their jobs.
“Using the insight generated, we will continue to develop and deliver resources that enhance their mental health, wellbeing, and operational delivery.”
More than 100,000 people worldwide are employed to check material posted on websites and social media to stop inappropriate content, including child abuse images and videos, appearing online.
Many are in developing countries and much of the work is outsourced to agencies, with content moderators reporting they sometimes have to view hundreds of distressing items a day without adequate breaks or psychological support.
In their project ‘Invisible Risks: Combating Secondary Trauma to Safeguard Children’, which was completed in June, the CATS team looked at how the demanding role of content moderators impacted their wellbeing, what made their work more challenging and what coping strategies they used.
They plan to develop the work by addressing issues such as managing intrusive thoughts, fostering and maintaining positive relationships, and achieving a healthier work-life balance for content moderators in the expanded project.
To fortify this effort the CATS team, which is managed by senior researcher Dr Ruth Spence, has involved the expertise of colleagues from redLoop in the Department of Design, and Dr Bob Fields from Science and Technology.
These professionals bring specialised skills and technical knowledge to the table, with the goal of transforming the prototype into an integrated, online product that is both accessible and user-friendly for potential industry partners.
Dr Spence said: “We've assembled an ideal, diverse team with expertise spanning various disciplines.
“This well-rounded team possesses the potential to develop a solution that could have a profound impact on content moderators and, ultimately, on the well-being of children.”
Dr Martellozzo said: “This is an important moment for researchers at Middlesex University.
“With the generous support of Tech Coalition, we've successfully emphasised the pivotal role played by content moderators and underscored the urgent requirement for personalised support tailored to their needs.”