The new moderation action plan


June 9, 2020

June 9, 2020
The Hustle
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Monday served up an unusual cocktail of economic news. Let’s get the double shot of bad over with:

  1. The official arbiter of US business cycles said Monday that the economy peaked in February and entered a recession, ending an expansion streak that began in June 2009.
  2. The World Bank predicted that global GDP will shrink 5.2% this year — the deepest recession since World War II.

Now for the chaser, which should taste better: The markets continued their rally after last week’s better-than-expected jobs report. Some of those jobs didn’t exist before COVID-19, and we want to write about new ones in the pandemic-era economy. So if you’ve got a contact-tracing or social-distance consulting gig, fill out our survey to tell us more.

Can’t unsee this

An NYU report offers a plan for the content moderation industry

Fixing one of tech’s most inhumane jobs is not an enviable task. 

Moderators have to dig through some of the darkest content humanity has to offer — and the work is often traumatizing. But AI moderation isn’t quite up to snuff either, which means humans are an unfortunate necessity. 

But in a new report, NYU professor Paul M. Barrett has a few ideas for revamping the industry — starting with one big one. Instead of outsourcing content moderators, he argues, companies like Facebook need to bring them on as full-time workers.

How content moderation went so wrong

Big tech companies currently “marginalize the people who do content moderation” to give themselves “plausible deniability” over content failures, according to the report.

Facebook’s content moderators are often subcontractors. Many worked for a company called Cognizant, earning salaries as low as ~$28k and receiving few health benefits. (Last October, Cognizant left the business.) 

After a string of moderators received PTSD diagnoses, they sued Facebook — and last month, the company agreed to shell out $52m to 11,250 of its moderators.

But moderators say they are blocked from “voicing concerns and contributing to the public discussion.” A group of moderators on Monday expressed solidarity with virtual walkouts at Facebook, writing, “We would walk out with you — if Facebook would allow it.”

The new moderation action plan

Here are a few more of Barrett’s prescriptions: 

  • Double the number of human moderators. Moderators will be able to rotate shifts more often and overall view less terrifying content.
  • Put moderation teams in every country. Moderators trained in local languages and politics are best suited to sleuth out inappropriate posts.
  • Give moderators more mental health support. Trauma counseling is urgently needed — but most have a tricky time getting it.
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The App Economy

Tech is shaping the protests, from police scanner apps to Google Docs

After more than a week of demonstrations, the protest movement is evolving. Demonstrators are reinforcing their tactics with some tech-savvy strategies. 

Think Waze, but for protests

The crime-and-safety app Citizen has become the new go-to protest tool, recording over 600k first-time users over the last week and shooting from 744th to 4th in daily Apple store downloads.

Originally launched in 2016 under the name Vigilante, the app sought to make 911 more transparent by giving people a communal way to monitor crime.

Citizen is powered by user reports and a custom police radio reader. It updates users on demonstration and law-enforcement activity, along with other major developments. Users can submit videos and correct inaccurate information. 

Citizen said 70% of its users say the app makes them feel safer, and that a large percentage of its users are people of color.

It’s part of a growing app arsenal

Independent developers are getting in on the game too. One web app removes metadata from photos, and another pixelates images to mask users’ identities.

Google Docs has also become a staple for sharing petitions and resources. 

Hey Siri, stop listening 

Phones are essential for communication, but protesters worry that signals make it easier to track their movements. 

The Electronic Frontier Foundation recommends enabling airplane mode to prevent phones from transmitting signals to cell phone towers. And The Markup broke down all the ways protestors are modding their phones to avoid being tracked, from muting their notifications to forgoing Touch ID. 

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No service?

Britain and Huawei square off over 5G

British media right now is teeming with ads from Chinese telecom giant Huawei — and it’s a good reminder that the battle over 5G is far from finished. 

The brief rundown: Huawei is ahead in the 5G race. While the US has urged its allies not to partner with the company because of security concerns, it hasn’t proposed a real alternative.

Britain is in an especially tight spot. Back in January, the country agreed to let Huawei build up to 35% of its 5G market share in “non-core areas.” But following US sanctions in May, Britain launched a review that could see it back out.

Ghosting Huawei has its consequences

Over the weekend, the British bank HSBC warned that messing with Huawei would hurt business in China. China’s ambassador to the UK characterized Huawei as “a litmus test of whether Britain is a true and faithful partner.”

But with the COVID-19 crisis making some countries rethink their reliance on China, Huawei skeptics might be getting a rare win. 

Denmark said it wants its 5G system to come from a national ally. And the UK is proposing an alliance of 10 major countries — the US, France, Japan, and India among them — to build a 5G system that competes against Huawei’s.

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The Hustle Says

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Twitter Trouble

Reebok and partner gyms walk away from CrossFit after CEO’s ‘FLOYD-19’ tweet

The world is watching how brands respond to problems of racial inequity. Actions count more than words, and a slip-up can cost you dearly.

CrossFit learned that lesson the hard way this weekend. 

Greg Glassman, the fitness company’s CEO, set off a firestorm when he responded to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s statement that “racism and discrimination are critical public health issues that demand an urgent response.”

“It’s FLOYD-19,” he replied, invoking George Floyd’s name. “Your failed model quarantined us and now you’re going to model a solution to racism?”

CrossFit’s partners had seen enough

Glassman’s tweets quickly caused a controversy in the CrossFit community. 

Reebok said Sunday that it was ending its CrossFit partnership, and several gyms distanced themselves from Glassman’s comments.

On Sunday night, CrossFit posted an apology on its Twitter account. Glassman said he was trying to “stick it” to the institute for models that resulted in lockdowns, but said it was “wrong” to involve Floyd’s name.

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Snippets

1️⃣ IBM’s CEO announced that the company is getting out of the business of facial recognition technology, telling Congress it’s time “to begin a national dialogue on whether and how” the tech is used by law-enforcement agencies.

2️⃣ Add Comcast to the list of companies donating big money to social justice causes — its CEO announced a $100m commitment to fight inequality.

3️⃣ Refinery29’s top editor is out after former staffers spoke out about “racist aggresssions,” and Bon Appétit’s editor-in-chief resigned after a photo of him in brownface came to light. 

4️⃣ Confused about where you’re allowed to travel? Google Maps will start warning you about coronavirus-related restrictions.

5️⃣ Insurance startup Lemonade is filing to go public — and like so many other SoftBank-backed companies, it’s hitting Wall Street already in the red. 

6️⃣ Wall Street workers are returning this month, but the snazzy lunch buffets are no more: They’ll have to gear up for boxed meals instead.

7️⃣ After another rally, the S&P 500 is now at a net positive for the year.

8️⃣ Humans are pretty terrible at reading emotions when someone is wearing a mask.

9️⃣ The future of planetary exploration: insect robots

🔟 European orchestras are gearing up for their triumphant return. Get ready for plexiglass between the wind and brass sections. 

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