An open letter to Facebook leadership from its content moderators has provided fascinating details regarding the discontent brewing among the workers, who were allegedly forced to return to office spaces amid the coronavirus pandemic. Over 200 Facebook content moderators from across the world have questioned the decision of the social media giant to force them back to the office, despite the risks of contracting coronavirus.
Why Facebook ‘forced’ moderators back to the office?
Facebook relies on thousands of contractors, who are officially employed with companies like Accenture and CPL, to spot and remove the content found violating the company’s policies. The employees have said that Facebook tried using Artificial Intelligence to moderate the content but failed, and then chose to “risk” their lives by calling them back to the office. They have alleged that Facebook undertook a massive live experiment in heavily automated content moderation without informing the public.
“The AI wasn’t up to the job. Important speech got swept into the maw of the Facebook filter – and risky content, like self-harm, stayed up,” they wrote, adding that the platform’s algorithms are years away from achieving the necessary level of sophistication to moderate content automatically. They stated that the algorithms cannot spot satire and cannot respond quickly enough to self-harm or child abuse.
“Facebook needs us. It is time that you acknowledged this and valued our work. To sacrifice our health and safety for profit is immoral,” the employees asserted.
What are their demands?
The content moderators have listed five demands, saying they deserve the rights and benefits of full Facebook staff.
1. To keep moderators and their families safe, the employees have demanded that everyone who is at high risk or who live with someone who is at high risk for Covid-19 should be permitted to work from home indefinitely.
2. The employees said that work that can be done from home should continue to be done from home, demanding to maximize at-home working. They have also claimed that there is a “pervasive and needlessly secretive” culture at Facebook.
3. They want Facebook to offer hazard pay if the company wants moderators to “risk their lives to maintain ‘community’ and profit”. The employees said that people working in the office on high-risk material, such as child abuse, should be paid hazard pay of 1.5x their usual wage.
4. The content moderators stated that Facebook to end outsourcing and bring the content moderation workforce in house, giving them the same rights and benefits as full Facebook staff.
5. The employees want the social media giant to offer “real healthcare and psychiatric care”. They said that content moderators bear the brunt of the mental health trauma associated with Facebook’s toxic content and they deserve “at least as much mental and physical health support as full Facebook staff.”