Taking the pain out of moderation: ConTrust CEO, Shai Wolkomir.Owners of websites and blogs know only too well how much time it takes slogging through reader comments and spam; or how annoying it can be getting rid of the rogue commenter inflicting insult to other people on the site.

Companies selling things may opt for user forums to discuss and debate products, because in many instances this is a great add-on service that creates positive experiences to ensure repeat sales. But with little filters on what your readers are saying, companies may be putting their brand at risk.

One slip up can cost a popular online newspaper millions of dollars worth in ad sales, and can lead to a public scandal and legal headaches. Imagine an advertiser for a new children’s TV program buys space on a website and alongside their ad appears a reader comment, alluding to paedophilia or pornography. It can happen and it does, often causing the advertiser to withdraw its ad.

Let the computer do the dirty work

Keeping websites and blogs rich in comments but without the headache is Israel’s ConTrust. Developed for mid-range and large content providers and companies, ConTrust has developed an application that pre-screens dicey comments, rating them on the relative level of danger they might cause if published.

This system can scratch off hundreds of hour’s worth of manual labor from the payroll each week leaving the riskiest comments subject for approval by a human moderator. Eventually, Shai Wolkomir, the company’s CEO tells ISRAEL21c, ConTrust hopes to generate enough sales from large companies that it can offer its service to smaller non-commercial sites, for free.

“At the end of the day,” says Wolkomir, ConTrust is taking the pain out of moderation. Unwanted comments that slip through the cracks, “can create an uneasy relationship with advertisers and also legal issues,” he explains. But not only legal issues are at stake, so is customer loyalty.

“If your site is filled with garbage [comments], your user might abandon your website,” he says, noting that opening your company to comments, while a great idea in some instances, “might cause the opposite effect. All of these problems are very painful and problematic,” he adds, offering the example of Marriott Hotels.

The company he says is a billion dollar brand, which offers a social element to readers on its site. To monitor site comments, Marriott has to employ 50 or 60 people a day. Other chains like Hilton, or Chevrolet have the same experience.

A world of comments, blogs and user content

“Most of these platforms up until yesterday managed their own editorial. They’ve been opened to a world of comments, blogs, wikis and user-generated content… they are not sure what content is there,” explains Wolkomir.

ConTrust, which employs six people at offices in Kiryat Gat, believes in a market and world that is Web based, and should be built with less hardware. Once signed up for its service, a user comment from your site gets sent to the ConTrust’s conference cloud, where its SaaS (software-as-a-service) monitoring engine gets information, predicts a risk score, and detects a threat in that content. The engine can even learn what’s acceptable to publish, and what isn’t, over time.

Obviously a solution that would work for Fashion TV, might not work for NBC, so ConTrust allows its customer to tweak risk variables of potentially offensive content. In fully automatic mode, semi-automatic or fully manual, ConTrust provides a full-blown system that “feels” like human moderation. The platform also works for video, and stills.

ConTrust is funded by Xenia Venture Capital and private investors, and is now in a closed beta mode, where it is working with a number of US companies to test the platform, one of which is a Fortune 500 company.