No rest for the wicked: The perils of being a content moderator — all for $28k a year

A report from The Verge illustrates the terrible working conditions of Facebook’s content moderators.


February 26, 2019

More than 65 years of video are uploaded to YouTube each day, and it ain’t all puppies and soldiers reuniting with their loved ones.  

The internet is mostly NSFW and, unfortunately, it takes more than machine learning algorithms to keep bad actors at bay. In fact, humans are still the first line of defense — meaning that even if we aren’t seeing the dark and demented, someone else is.

According to a report from The Verge, US content moderators at Facebook have resorted to drug use and “trauma bonding” at work to cope with the stress of viewing graphic material on loop — all for the price of $15 per hour.

Cognizant times call for Cognizant measures

Deciding what belongs online is one of the fastest-growing jobs in tech — and maybe the most difficult for employees — reviewing everything from offensive jokes to murder on a daily basis. 

This is where Facebook’s partnership with Cognizant, a “professional services” vendor, comes in.

According to some working moderators, Cognizant’s business model is shrouded in secrecy, for fear that Cognizant and its clients like Facebook will face criticism about their working conditions.

Becoming a ‘process executive’

Worldwide, Facebook employs over 7.5k content moderators — or as Cognizant calls them, “process executives.” 

According to Cognizant, employees are equipped with everyday check-ins from counselors, hotline services, and an “employee assistance program.”

But the employees describe a very different workplace that is heavily micromanaged (with barely an hour of incremental breaks each day) and constantly on the edge of chaos. 

Workers are pressured to keep their experiences private, forcing them to cope at work by resorting to drugs, jokes about suicide, and what one employee called “trauma bonding” — AKA having sex with employees inside stairwells and other office locales.

It goes deeper…

Many employees start to believe the conspiratorial content they’re subjected to — one employee told The Verge he no longer believes 9/11 was a terrorist attack.

Employees are often fired after only a handful of errors. And once they’re out, ex-employees are saddled with PTSD-like symptoms — with no additional support from Facebook or Cognizant.

Those who remain employed reportedly live in fear of retaliation from former colleagues. One ex-employee said he started bringing a gun to work while he was there to protect himself.

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