Social media grapples with live audio moderation

Clubhouse has exploded onto the social media scene and has drawn blockbuster users like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey.

It’s an audio-only chatting app where all conversations happen in real time.

Clubhouse was launched in March 2020 but the invite-only app already has 10 million weekly active users.

Its executives want it to host everything from political rallies to company meetings.

But with fame, comes scrutiny.

Critics are questioning how the app will handle problematic content, such as hate speech, harassment and misinformation.

Reuters’ social media correspondent Elizabeth Culliford: “Content moderation at scale is something that even the biggest social media platforms grapple with and moderating any kind of live content, whether that's video or audio, that is difficult because it is immediate, it's evolving. Unless the content is recorded, then it doesn't live as a static piece that your answer could just be to take it down. So your enforcement actions also might be different in how you handle that. And then moderating live audio in particular is also difficult because it's more cumbersome and time consuming than detecting and analyzing text, whether that's with machine learning tools or with human moderators who may take more time to listen and get the nuances of audio than reading text.”

It’s a challenge being faced by a raft of social platforms as well, from Twitter’s fledgling live-audio feature called Spaces to Discord, a video game-centric platform with live voice chat.

Facebook is also reportedly dabbling with an offering.

The challenges of moderating live audio are set against a broader content moderation battle, where platforms can find themselves in the firing line for being too restrictive or dangerously permissive.

But audio is clearly a battle worth fighting. Getting it right could help spark new waves of business, monetizing not only users’ eyeballs, but their ears too.