The psychological impacts of content moderation on content moderators: a qualitative study

Article


Spence, R., Bifulco, A., Bradbury, P., Martellozzo, E. and DeMarco, J. 2023. The psychological impacts of content moderation on content moderators: a qualitative study. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. 17 (4). https://doi.org/10.5817/cp2023-4-8
TypeArticle
TitleThe psychological impacts of content moderation on content moderators: a qualitative study
AuthorsSpence, R., Bifulco, A., Bradbury, P., Martellozzo, E. and DeMarco, J.
Abstract

Content moderation generally refers to the practice of monitoring user generated content and applying a set of rules defining what is acceptable. As a result, Content Moderators (CMs) are responsible for reviewing and removing harmful online material, which has the potential to cause psychological harm. However, little is known about the perceived impacts of the job. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 commercial CMs who were exposed to child sexual abuse material (CSAM) as part of their job. Interviews were analysed using framework analysis to investigate any psychological impacts. Results demonstrated that CMs manifested with a range of symptoms consistent with experiencing repeated trauma. This included experiencing intrusive thoughts of CSAM, triggered by situations with similar contexts to those encountered at work, avoidance of children and negative cognitive and emotional effects such as cynicism, anxiety and detachment. These symptoms fit into a framework of post traumatic and secondary traumatic stress and suggest CMs wellbeing and exposure to stressful stimuli may be comparable to professionals working in the emergency services or caring professions, such as social workers. These personnel are at heightened risk of various problems including compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and burnout. Companies which employ moderators should learn from these comparable professions and provide psychoeducation and trauma-informed care to CMs which have been demonstrated to help mitigate these challenges.

Keywordschild sexual abuse material; content moderation; trauma; post-traumatic stress disorder; work stress
Sustainable Development Goals3 Good health and well-being
Middlesex University ThemeHealth & Wellbeing
Research GroupCentre for Abuse and Trauma Studies (CATS)
LanguageEnglish
PublisherMasaryk University Press
JournalCyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace
ISSN
Electronic1802-7962
Publication dates
Online18 Sep 2023
Print18 Sep 2023
Publication process dates
Deposited14 Sep 2023
Submitted27 Nov 2022
Accepted07 Aug 2023
Output statusPublished
Publisher's version
License
Copyright Statement

Copyright © 2023 Ruth Spence, Antonia Bifulco, Paula Bradbury, Elena Martellozzo, Jeffrey DeMarco
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.5817/cp2023-4-8
Web of Science identifierWOS:001097407300006
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Attachment style and psychological adjustment in couples
Conde, A., Figueirido, B. and Bifulco, A. 2011. Attachment style and psychological adjustment in couples. Attachment & Human Development. 13 (3), pp. 271-291. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616734.2011.562417
Condividere e condividere allo stesso modo.Il maltrattamento è un’esperienza condivisa dai fratelli? [= To share and share alike: is maltreatment an experience shared by siblings?]
Bifulco, A., Ilan-Clarke, Y., Hannan, L. and Schimmenti, A. 2008. Condividere e condividere allo stesso modo.Il maltrattamento è un’esperienza condivisa dai fratelli? [= To share and share alike: is maltreatment an experience shared by siblings?]. Noos – Aggiornamenti in Psichiatria. 3, pp. 253-274.
Quando i genitori maltrattano i figli. Le radici psicopatologiche dello sviluppo affettivo (When the parents maltreat their young: the developmental roots of psychopathology)
Schimmenti, A. and Bifulco, A. 2008. Quando i genitori maltrattano i figli. Le radici psicopatologiche dello sviluppo affettivo (When the parents maltreat their young: the developmental roots of psychopathology). in: Caretti, V. and Creparo, G. (ed.) Trauma e psicopatologia. Un approccio evolutivo-relazionale Rome Astrolabi. pp. 94-131
Le esperienze di maltrattamento vissute dai fratelli: tra ambiente condiviso e non condiviso
Schimmenti, A. and Bifulco, A. 2010. Le esperienze di maltrattamento vissute dai fratelli: tra ambiente condiviso e non condiviso. in: Schimmenti, V. (ed.) Oltre la madre: relazioni familiari e sviluppo psicologico Milan, Italy Franco Angeli. pp. 114-129
Loss trauma
Bifulco, A. 2007. Loss trauma. in: Encyclopedia of Stress Academic Press. pp. 612-615
Il bambino maltrattato: le radici della depressione nel trauma e nell'abuso infantile
Bifulco, A. and Moran, P. 2007. Il bambino maltrattato: le radici della depressione nel trauma e nell'abuso infantile. Rome Astrolabio Ubaldini.
Familial patterns of stress
Bifulco, A. 2007. Familial patterns of stress. in: Fink, G. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Stress Academic Press. pp. 1-6
Wednesday's child: research into women's experience of neglect and abuse in childhood and adult depression
Bifulco, A. and Moran, P. 1998. Wednesday's child: research into women's experience of neglect and abuse in childhood and adult depression. London, U.K. Routledge.
Risk and resilience in young Londoners
Bifulco, A. 2009. Risk and resilience in young Londoners. in: Brom, D., Pat-Horenczyk, R. and Ford, J. (ed.) Treating traumatized children: risk, resilience and recovery Hove, U.K. Routledge. pp. 117-130
Depressed mothers and their children: attachment issues
Bifulco, A. 2010. Depressed mothers and their children: attachment issues. in: Kohen, D. (ed.) Oxford Textbook of Women and Mental Health Oxford, U.K. Oxford University Press (OUP). pp. 271-277
Predicting onset of depression: the vulnerability to depression questionnaire
Moran, P., Bifulco, A., Ball, C. and Campbell, C. 2001. Predicting onset of depression: the vulnerability to depression questionnaire. British Journal of Clinical Psychology. 40 (4), pp. 411-427. https://doi.org/10.1348/014466501163896
History of childhood abuse in Portuguese parents
Figuieredo, B., Bifulco, A., Paivia, C., Maia, A., Fernandes, E. and Matos, R. 2004. History of childhood abuse in Portuguese parents. Child Abuse and Neglect. 28 (6), pp. 669-682. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2003.11.021
Maternal attachment style and depression associated with childbirth ; preliminary results from a European and US cross-cultural study
Bifulco, A., Figueiredo, B., Guedeney, N., Gorman, L., Hayes, S., Muzik, M., Glatigny-Dallay, E., Valoriani, V., Kammerer, M. and Henshaw, C. 2004. Maternal attachment style and depression associated with childbirth ; preliminary results from a European and US cross-cultural study. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 184, pp. s31-s37.
Attachment style measurement: a clinical and epidemiological perspective
Bifulco, A. 2002. Attachment style measurement: a clinical and epidemiological perspective. Attachment & Human Development. 4 (2), pp. 180-188. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616730210157501
Lifetime stressors and recurrent depression: preliminary findings of the Adult Life Phase Interview (ALPHI)
Bifulco, A., Bernazzani, O., Moran, P. and Ball, C. 2000. Lifetime stressors and recurrent depression: preliminary findings of the Adult Life Phase Interview (ALPHI). Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 35 (6), pp. 264-275. https://doi.org/10.1007/s001270050238
Motherhood as a vulnerability factor in major depression: the role of negative pregnancy experiences
Bernazzani, O. and Bifulco, A. 2003. Motherhood as a vulnerability factor in major depression: the role of negative pregnancy experiences. Social Science & Medicine. 56 (6), pp. 1249-1260. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00123-5
Malaysian moslem mothers' experience of depression and service use
Abdul Kadir, N. and Bifulco, A. 2010. Malaysian moslem mothers' experience of depression and service use. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. 34 (3), pp. 443-467. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11013-010-9183-x
Exploring psychological abuse in childhood. I: developing a new interview scale
Moran, P., Bifulco, A., Ball, C., Jacobs, C. and Benaim, K. 2002. Exploring psychological abuse in childhood. I: developing a new interview scale. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. 66 (Summer), pp. 213-240.
Childhood experiences of care and abuse (CECA): validierung der Deutschen version des fragebogenund korrespondierenden Interview sowie Ergebnisse einer Untersuchung von Zusammenhangen belastenader Kindheitserlebnisse mit suizdalen Verhaltensweisen
Kaess, M., Parzer, P., Mattern, M., Resch, F., Bifulco, A. and Brunner, R. 2011. Childhood experiences of care and abuse (CECA): validierung der Deutschen version des fragebogenund korrespondierenden Interview sowie Ergebnisse einer Untersuchung von Zusammenhangen belastenader Kindheitserlebnisse mit suizdalen Verhaltensweisen. Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie. 39 (4), pp. 243-252. https://doi.org/10.1024/1422-4917/a000115
Investigating police practice in the UK: achieving best evidence in work with young victims of abuse
Davidson, J. and Bifulco, A. 2009. Investigating police practice in the UK: achieving best evidence in work with young victims of abuse. Pakistan Journal of Criminology. 1 (3), pp. 19-46.
Childhood experience and sexual offending: the use of the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse (CECA) interview in forensic psychology research and practice
Bifulco, A. 2006. Childhood experience and sexual offending: the use of the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse (CECA) interview in forensic psychology research and practice. in: Pham, T. (ed.) L'évaluation diagnostique des agresseurs sexuels Belgium Mardaga Pierre.
Early adversity and depression
Bifulco, A. 2009. Early adversity and depression. in: Ingram, R. (ed.) The International Encyclopedia of Depression New York Springer Publishing Company.
Multi-agency working: Implications for an early-intervention social work team
Moran, P., Jacobs, C., Bunn, A. and Bifulco, A. 2007. Multi-agency working: Implications for an early-intervention social work team. Child & Family Social Work. 12 (2), pp. 143-151. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2206.2006.00452.x
Teenage pregnancy, attachment style, and depression: a comparison of teenage and adult pregnant women in a Portuguese series
Figueiredo, B., Bifulco, A., Pacheco, A., Costa, R. and Magarinho, R. 2006. Teenage pregnancy, attachment style, and depression: a comparison of teenage and adult pregnant women in a Portuguese series. Attachment & Human Development. 8 (2), pp. 123-138. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616730600785686
Solutions on Stress (SOS): programmes, packages and products for helping teenagers
Bunn, A., Bifulco, A., Lorenc, A. and Robinson, N. 2007. Solutions on Stress (SOS): programmes, packages and products for helping teenagers. Young Consumers: Insight and Ideas for Responsible Marketers. 8 (1), pp. 29-35. https://doi.org/10.1108/17473610710733758
Exploring psychological abuse in childhood: II. Association with other abuse and adult clinical depression
Bifulco, A., Moran, P., Baines, R., Bunn, A. and Stanford, K. 2002. Exploring psychological abuse in childhood: II. Association with other abuse and adult clinical depression. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. 66 (3), pp. 241-258.
The childhood experience of care and abuse questionnaire (CECA.Q): validation in a community series
Bifulco, A., Bernazzani, O., Moran, P. and Jacobs, C. 2005. The childhood experience of care and abuse questionnaire (CECA.Q): validation in a community series. British Journal of Clinical Psychology. 44 (4), pp. 563-581.
The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder
Bifulco, A., Mahon, J., Kwon, J., Moran, P. and Jacobs, C. 2003. The Vulnerable Attachment Style Questionnaire (VASQ): an interview-based measure of attachment styles that predict depressive disorder. Psychological Medicine. 33 (6), pp. 1099-1110. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291703008237
Problem partners and parenting: exploring linkages with maternal insecure attachment style and adolescent offspring internalizing disorder
Bifulco, A., Moran, P., Jacobs, C. and Bunn, A. 2009. Problem partners and parenting: exploring linkages with maternal insecure attachment style and adolescent offspring internalizing disorder. Attachment & Human Development. 11 (1), pp. 69-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616730802500826
Child victims of sexual abuse: children's experience of the investigative process in the criminal justice system
Davidson, J., Bifulco, A., Thomas, G. and Ramsay, M. 2006. Child victims of sexual abuse: children's experience of the investigative process in the criminal justice system. Practice: Social Work in Action. 18 (4), pp. 247-263. https://doi.org/10.1080/09503150601025253
Adult attachment style as mediator between childhood neglect/abuse and adult depression and anxiety
Bifulco, A., Kwon, J., Jacobs, C., Moran, P., Bunn, A. and Beer, N. 2006. Adult attachment style as mediator between childhood neglect/abuse and adult depression and anxiety. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 41 (10), pp. 796-805. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-006-0101-z
Childhood adversity, parental vulnerability and disorder: examining intergenerational transmission of risk
Bifulco, A., Moran, P., Ball, C., Jacobs, C., Baines, R., Bunn, A. and Cavagin, J. 2002. Childhood adversity, parental vulnerability and disorder: examining intergenerational transmission of risk. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 43 (8), pp. 1075-1086. https://doi.org/10.1111/1469-7610.00234
The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): a support-based adult assessment tool for adoption and fostering practice
Bifulco, A., Jacobs, C., Bunn, A., Thomas, G. and Irving, K. 2008. The Attachment Style Interview (ASI): a support-based adult assessment tool for adoption and fostering practice. Adoption and Fostering. 32 (3), pp. 33-45. https://doi.org/10.1177/030857590803200306
Adult Attachment Style. II: Its relationship to psychosocial depressive-vulnerability
Bifulco, A., Moran, P., Ball, C. and Lillie, A. 2002. Adult Attachment Style. II: Its relationship to psychosocial depressive-vulnerability. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 37 (2), pp. 60-67. https://doi.org/10.1007/s127-002-8216-x
Adult attachment style. I: Its relationship to clinical depression
Bifulco, A., Moran, P., Ball, C. and Bernazzani, O. 2002. Adult attachment style. I: Its relationship to clinical depression. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 37 (2), pp. 50-59. https://doi.org/10.1007/s127-002-8215-0
Assessing psychosocial risk in pregnant/postpartum women using the Contextual Assessment of Maternity Experience (CAME)
Bernazzani, O., Marks, M., Bifulco, A., Siddle, K., Asten, P. and Conroy, S. 2005. Assessing psychosocial risk in pregnant/postpartum women using the Contextual Assessment of Maternity Experience (CAME). Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. 40 (6), pp. 497-508. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-005-0917-y
Problem partners and parenting: exploring linkages with maternal insecure attachment style and adolescent offspring internalizing disorder
Bifulco, A., Moran, P., Jacobs, C. and Bunn, A. 2009. Problem partners and parenting: exploring linkages with maternal insecure attachment style and adolescent offspring internalizing disorder. Attachment & Human Development. 11 (1), pp. 69-85. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616730802500826
Concordance between mother and offspring retrospective reports of childhood adversity
Fisher, H., Bunn, A., Jacobs, C., Moran, P. and Bifulco, A. 2011. Concordance between mother and offspring retrospective reports of childhood adversity. Child Abuse and Neglect. 35 (2), pp. 117-122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.10.003
Cuidado y protección de menores contra el abuso sexual on line
Martellozzo, E. 2009. Cuidado y protección de menores contra el abuso sexual on line. Cuadernos de Seguridad. 11, pp. 151-181.
Online child sexual abuse by female offenders: an exploratory study
Martellozzo, E., Nehring, D. and Taylor, H. 2010. Online child sexual abuse by female offenders: an exploratory study. International Journal of Cyber Criminology. 4 (1&2), pp. 592-609.
Protecting children online: towards a safer internet
Davidson, J. and Martellozzo, E. 2008. Protecting children online: towards a safer internet. in: Wetherby, G., Williams, K., Birch, P. and Cain, M. (ed.) Sex as crime? Willan. pp. 338-355
Internet sex offenders: individual autonomy, ‘folk devils’ and state control
Martellozzo, E., Davidson, J. and Cambridge Socio-Legal Group 2009. Internet sex offenders: individual autonomy, ‘folk devils’ and state control. in: Sclater, S., Ebtehaj, F., Jackson, E. and Richards, M. (ed.) Regulating autonomy: sex, reproduction and family Oxford, UK Hart Publishing. pp. 129-146
Understanding the perpetrators' online behaviour
Martellozzo, E. 2010. Understanding the perpetrators' online behaviour. in: Davidson, J. and Gottschalk, P. (ed.) Internet child abuse: current research and policy Abingdon, UK Routledge-Cavendish. pp. 104-125
Online child sexual abuse: grooming, policing and child protection in a multi-media world
Martellozzo, E. 2012. Online child sexual abuse: grooming, policing and child protection in a multi-media world. London, UK Routledge.
Globalization, urbanization & security
Davidson, J. and Martellozzo, E. 2009. Globalization, urbanization & security. in: Cordner, G., Cordner, A. and Das, D. (ed.) Urbanization, policing & security: global perspectives CRC Press.
Clinical and economic outcomes from the UK pilot psychiatric services for personality-disordered offenders
Fortune, Z., Barrett, B., Armstrong, D., Coid, J., Crawford, M., Mudd, D., Rose, D., Slade, M., Spence, R., Tyrer, P. and Moran, P. 2011. Clinical and economic outcomes from the UK pilot psychiatric services for personality-disordered offenders. International Review of Psychiatry. 23 (1), pp. 61-69. https://doi.org/10.3109/09540261.2010.545989
Urbanization and security: moving forward, key themes, and challenges
Davidson, J. and Martellozzo, E. 2009. Urbanization and security: moving forward, key themes, and challenges. in: Cordner, G., Das, D. and Cordner, A. (ed.) Urbanization, policing, and security: global perspectives. CRC Press. pp. 435-440
Sex offenders' use of the Internet.
Martellozzo, E. 2010. Sex offenders' use of the Internet. in: Davidson, J. and Gottschalk, P. (ed.) Internet child abuse: current research and policy. Routledge-Cavendish. pp. 104-125
Evaluation of CEOP ThinkUKnow internet safety programme and exploration of young people's internet safety knowledge.
Davidson, J., Martellozzo, E. and Lorenz, M. 2009. Evaluation of CEOP ThinkUKnow internet safety programme and exploration of young people's internet safety knowledge. Centre for Abuse & Trauma Studies and Kingston University.
Cycle of abuse
Martellozzo, E. and Taylor, H. 2009. Cycle of abuse. Index on Censorship. 38 (1), pp. 117-122. https://doi.org/10.1080/03064220902761106
An evaluation of new services for personality-disordered offenders: staff and service user perspectives
Fortune, Z., Rose, D., Crawford, M., Slade, M., Spence, R., Mudd, D., Barrett, B., Coid, J., Tyrer, P. and Moran, P. 2010. An evaluation of new services for personality-disordered offenders: staff and service user perspectives. International Journal of Social Psychiatry.