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The Absolutely Horrible, Disgusting and Inexcusable Working Conditions at Facebook

I was a guest on Chad and Cheese’s “The Shred” Podcast today. Listen to it now, read the transcript below or, do both. Yes, both would be good. 😉

Facebook moderators are the cops of the social network. They patrol its cyberspace for things like hate speech, murders in livestream, child pornography and anything else that can be generated by the worst examples of its global society. One such Facebook moderator was Keith Utley. He worked the overnight shift at a Facebook content moderation site in Tampa, FL, operated by a professional services vendor named Cognizant. He did not serve in this capacity alone; 800 or so contract co-workers helped him sift through internet depravity and they had the notable distinction of being among the worst performing of the FB moderation sites – according to “The Verge.”

To work as a Facebook moderator, you are required to sign a 14-page nondisclosure agreement. Keith Utley and others broke that agreement because the working conditions demanded it. Here are just a few of their complaints and apologies in advance, if you have a weak stomach.

  • A Facebook content moderator had a heart attack at his desk and died last year. Senior management initially discouraged employees from discussing the incident, for fear it would hurt productivity.
  • Facilities at the Tampa site are often filthy, with workers reporting that the office’s only bathroom has repeatedly been found smeared with feces and menstrual blood.
  • Workers have also found pubic hair and fingernails at their desks, along with other bodily waste.
  • Verbal and physical fights at the office are common. So are reports of theft.

The complaints go downhill, from there.

So, what do the workers get for the trouble of deplorable working conditions? A whopping $28,800 dollar a year salary, two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch break. They also get 9 minutes of wellness time because if you are monitoring graphic violence and child exploitation for a living, most likely you will soon be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or something related to it. In fact, “The Verge” reported on the secret lives of Facebook moderators before and cited how commonplace it was to be “haunted by visions of the images and videos they saw during their time on the job.”

So, what has been Facebook’s response? Here is a direct quote from Casey Newton, reporter for The Verge and the source for all the information I’ve been sharing. Quote…

In May, Facebook announced that it will raise contractor wages by $3 an hour, make on-site counselors available during all hours of operation, and develop further programs for its contractor workforce. But the pay raises are not due to take effect until the middle of 2020, by which time many, if not most, of the current Tampa workforce will no longer work there. Turnover statistics could not be obtained. But few moderators I have spoken with make it to two years on the job — they either are fired for low accuracy scores, or quit over the working conditions. And so while the raises will be a boon to a future workforce, the contractors I spoke to are unlikely to benefit.

The moral of the story here, I think is this, do not become a Facebook moderator. At least, not today.

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