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Interview With an Expert: Kristal Akhavan on Content Moderation

Reading Time: 4 minutes

‘Interview with an Expert’ is a recurring series on the PowerReviews blog. We recently sat down with Kristal Akhavan, the manager of the moderation team here at PowerReviews, to get some insights on the process of moderation and its importance.

PowerReviews: What is the main goal or mission for the moderation team?
Kristal Akhavan: The moderation team’s main focus is to ensure that all content displayed on our client sites is authentic and free from fraud, slander, foul language, competitor or price references, and offensive images and videos. Transparency and authenticity have been core focuses at PowerReviews and my team works to ensure that the content provided to consumers adhere to those standards.    

PR: What does it mean to be authentic?
KA: All of the content submitted through the PowerReviews platform (reviews, questions, answers) pass through an industry leading fraud prevention system and moderation process. All of our clients are expected to comply with these standards. Unlike others in our space, we don’t allow clients to implement policies that would purposely hide negative content. Our policies are 100% neutral and independent of a star rating, which allows for a truly authentic experience for shoppers.

PR: Could you take a minute and go through the steps of the moderation process?
KA: First and foremost, each piece of content goes through a profanity filter, which looks for and identifies inappropriate words. After a review successfully passes through the profanity filter, my moderation team reviews each piece of content and our fraud detection technology checks to ensure all content is free from fraud. Finally, once the reviews are approved by the moderators and displayed on a client site, customers have the ability to flag a review if they believe it is inappropriate, offensive, etc.

PR: You mentioned that the moderation process begins with the profanity filter. Can you describe what that is?
KA: Simply put, the profanity filter prevents inappropriate content from sneaking into reviews. Our profanity filter is synced with Urban Dictionary to ensure all iterations of foul language will be detected. Our clients also have the opportunity to add words to the profanity filter, if they choose.

Because the profanity filter step occurs before a review is submitted, customers have an opportunity to edit their reviews and re-submit, ensuring our clients capture more authentic and relevant content.

PR: You also noted that your team uses fraud detection software. How does it work?
KA: Through industry leading fraud detection technology, we track devices’ digital fingerprints to ensure all of the content is fraud free and authentic. Fraud detection prevents spam, duplicate content for rewards, sabotage and promotional content from making it on to our clients’ sites. Since January of this year, we’ve removed more than 14,000 fraudulent reviews. Our engineering team is also developing additional technology to better identify and eliminate fraudulent reviews before my team even sees them.

PR: PowerReviews emphasizes the importance of human moderation. Why is moderation performed by a person better than a machine?
KA: While the profanity filter can identify inappropriate language and we have software to detect fraud, computers aren’t equipped to notice instances of innuendo in a review. Others in the space use machine learning in place of moderators, but we’re focused on ensuring our content is relevant and appropriate for our clients and no phrases with innuendo or foul language make it on clients’ sites for consumers to view. 100% of our content is moderated by my team to ensure nothing slips through.

PR: How long will it take for a review to go through the moderation process and display on my site?
KA: Our standard is to moderate all content in 72 business hours, but it’s usually quicker than that.

PR: There has been a lot of talk around fake reviews in the news recently. How does PowerReviews ensure reviews are authentic?
KA: My moderation team has a set of guidelines they follow in order to ensure content is authentic. We never reject reviews simply because they’re negative. In fact, 86% of consumers seek out negative reviews while they shop, so businesses shouldn’t fear 1 or 2 star reviews on their site. The moderation team also never edits customer content and we reject any reviews which violate the moderation policies.

PR: Could you give some examples of violations to the moderation policy?
KA: Content which includes items like clear advertisements, profane or obscene language and fraud are all examples of violations. There are a list of other violations, but the moderation policies were created to ensure our clients provide authentic, quality, and appropriate content to their consumers.  

PR: What content does your team moderate?
KA: In addition to  review content, the team also moderates questions submitted by consumers, answers submitted by consumers, images and videos.

PR: Does the moderation team have the ability to properly moderate in industries where there are additional regulations, like Pharmaceuticals?
KA: Definitely. We’ve added specialized moderators to our team who focus on specific industries, such as pharmaceuticals. We’ve also been able to efficiently set up processes to ensure that we can adhere to special rules in an industry, without slowing down the moderation process or compromising authenticity.  

PR: A lot of the companies working with PowerReviews have international subsidiaries. Does the moderation team have the ability to moderate in languages other than English?
KA: We currently moderate in 20 different languages including Spanish, Japanese, French, and Portuguese. We also have the ability to add needed languages for clients.

Do you have any other questions about moderation you’d like Kristal to answer? Do you have a moderation question regarding your specific industry? Leave your question in the comments!

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Kristal Akhavan

Kristal has over six years of experience managing user generated content, both from an operational and a client-facing perspective. She currently manages onboarding and overall performance of the PowerReviews moderation team, as well as the fraud management system and product development on behalf of the Content Operations team.