BENGALURU: Chinese apps are now providing an increasing share of business to content-moderating firms locally, an industry which was driven largely by clients from the US and Europe. What is helping these platforms is that Chinese short-video streaming apps like TikTok, Vigo Video and LIKE have been gaining market share not only in India but also in countries like Bangladesh and Russia where these firms are handling the business for these internet companies.
Content moderators are hired to keep a check on inappropriate online content like nudity, gore, violence, spams, disturbing videos, dangerous hoaxes and other extreme content on social networking sites, video platforms and ecommerce sites.
Aravind Rao, cofounder of Infoesearch, a Hyderabad-based content moderation company, said many of these Chinese apps which are becoming popular in India as well as globally are helping them expand their business. Earlier, European and US-based dating apps, ecommerce sites, social networks, gaming and matchmaking sites were their primary clients.
“Two-thirds of the workforce are currently dedicated for our Chinese clientele,” said Suman Howlader, the founder of Bengalurubased Foiwe Info Global Solutions.
Over the past year or so, deep-pocketed Chinese video apps have been splurging as much as $15-20 million monthly to gain market share in India. Led by ByteDance’s TikTok which sees India account for 39% of its 500 million global users, social video app LIKE boasts of nearly twothirds of its user base being in India, as per estimates made by various media reports. Helo, a vernacular social media app, also from the Byte-Dance stable, counts over 13 million Indian users, according to industry experts.
Apart from these, there are many other Chinese apps which have been shoring the market share in India, including Tencent-backed Kwai, ShareIt, Weibo, BeautyPlus, ClubFactory, Xender and Meitu. Talking about the difficulty of the job to remove controversial content from these apps, Howlader says, “Video apps are easier to clean, and a majority of them don’t break guidelines.”
The trickier side of the job, Rao of Infoesearch says, is that Chinese apps have a set of their own guidelines. “The operating companies are under the jurisdiction of China. So, the related products also have to comply with the relevant laws and regulations of the cyberspace administration of China and the Chinese Internet. These also vary depending on the sector,” Rao pointed out.
Understanding the local laws and market sentiments also add up to the problem. For instance, while nudity is a sensitive issue in India, dating platforms in European markets or the US are usually okay with partial nudity. Many of these Chinese apps also require vernacular content moderation as they start to get huge traction in smaller towns and cities. This had led the content moderation companies to hire for local language skills.
“With millions of first-time users getting online daily, defining boundaries and right versus wrong on chat messengers or social networks is extremely important. This will obviously require a strong need for moderation, resulting in a new revenue stream for such companies,” said Ashish Pherwani, partner, EY India.