Pre-approving posts

Prevent rule-breaking posts

Our confidence rating

Likely

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What It Is

A moderation feature that requires mod approval before posts appear.

Civic Signal Being Amplified

Understand
:
Promote thoughtful conversation

When To Use It

Social media communities that are sensitive to post content, or must contend with high volumes of posts that do not adhere to community guidelines.

What Is Its Intended Impact

To filter out posts before they can adversely impact the community.

Evidence That It Works

Evidence That It Works

An observational study by Ribeiro et al. (2022) assessed how the post approval setting available for moderators of Facebook groups shaped user activity and moderation in online communities. The authors compared the behavior of groups that turned the setting on to those that did not. By turning the feature on, moderators can proactively filter posts before community members see them. With the setting off, moderation can occur only after rule-breaking content has been posted.

Even though one might assume that proactive moderation would reduce the amount rule-breaking posts, the authors tested this assumption and found that four weeks after groups turned on the setting there was indeed a decrease in the number of posts reported (effect-size: -0.15 SDs) and deleted (-0.55 SDs), both signals of problematic posts, compared to “matched” groups that had not used the setting. (Notes: We report effect sizes in standard deviations, as done by the paper’s authors. All results we report in this review are statistically significant, unless otherwise stated.) There was similarly a decrease in the number of members removed (−0.07 SDs). Overall this reinforces the assumption that the setting improves the quality of posts.  

Mod teams that are considering pro-active post approvals, however, may be concerned about the negative impact on both engagement and moderator work load. The authors did find that the feature reduced the number of posts (-0.35 SDs), due to both the filtering of undesired content, yet also by a reduction in the attempts to post. There was also about a 30% drop in overall time the average user spent in the group. However, each post generally received a higher level of engagement in the number of comments (0.14 SDs) and reactions (0.12 SDs) being made.

Also as might be expected the authors found that in the days after turning on the setting, group leaders spent 1/3 more time in the group, and the fraction of that time spent on moderation activities increased by 2 times. However, after a period of four weeks, the total time spent by leaders fell back to pre-intervention levels, although the increased fraction spent on moderation remained similar. Groups also tended to increase the size of their mod team (0.04 SDs). The drop in time spent by leaders to pre-intervention levels suggests that leaders gradually became more adept and efficient in their moderation activities. Nevertheless, post approvals still result in them having to devote a greater proportion of their time to moderation, and to recruit more leaders for moderation.

Why It Matters

Volunteer mods play a vital role in maintaining prosocial online spaces. Platforms that provide mods with a pre-approval setting give them one more tool to maintain a flourishing environment for their online community. In selecting to use post pre-approvals, however, those mods will have to weigh the costs of increased moderation demands and possible decrease in overall engagement with the benefits of more healthful content.

Special Considerations

Examples

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Citations

Post Approvals in Online Communities

Ribeiro, Manoel Horta, Justin Cheng, and Robert West
Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media
May 31, 2022

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