It’s no surprise that anonymous social networks are exploding as a way to regain the identity and privacy lost in large platforms like Facebook and Google. But with anonymity comes increasingly personal messages – and responsibility. While Whisper and Yik Yak users post all sorts of salacious comments, including porn and instances of cyber bullying, one outsourced Filipino company is ‘tasked’ with keeping these anonymous communities’ safe: TaskUs.
Founded in 2008 as an outsourced, virtual personal assistant company, Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir created TaskUs to help busy startups scale “one task at a time.” Its 650 member team located in Manila, Philippines (and with a sales and marketing office in Santa Monica, California) provides customer care and back office support for more than 100 top companies – including Expensify, Groupon, and Hotel Tonight – with a growing niche in content moderation.
Cyber police outforce
For Whisper, TaskUs employs 130 workers in Manila to monitor the app’s overflowing content. Both algorithms detect and users flag inappropriate text and images. Still, it is the TaskUs team’s job to go through each reported status, one comment at a time. After consulting their nearly 30-page content moderation manual, the “cyber police” first approves or disapproves a status. If a comment is not approved, it is often simply deleted. If a cyberbully is identified, they move this user’s statuses into a “posts-must-be-approved-before-publishing” category. When they find potentially suicidal comments, they stamp them with a watermark icon containing the National Suicide Hotline’s number. For threats of violence against private individuals (not public figures), they report them to the police.
Gigaom recently reported that TaskUs began working with Yik Yak, a popular anonymous app among teens, in the last month. Soon, it will also partner with Secret, which is currently embroiled in criticism about its handling of cyber bullies.
TaskUs remains privately self-funded and has never completed a VC funding round, likely preferring to stay out of the limelight because it provides outsourced services for large American companies. While TaskUs seems to dominate the anonymous app moderation market, its main pitfall is its labor-intensive services. Though publishers like the New York Times and others claim that humans must moderate content, it may only be a matter of time before robots replace the TaskUs team.