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Facebook moderators paid low wages, smoke weed, have sex to cope: Report



Facebook’s treatment of its legions of content moderators is under the spotlight following the publication of a report alleging tough working conditions and low pay that saw some employees break down under the weight of the content they were reviewing.

On Monday, The Verge’s Casey Newton published an extensive investigation into a content moderation workplace in Arizona. These are some of the moderators responsible for keeping Facebook clear of objectionable or illegal material — everything from racism to graphic violence to images of child abuse.

Newton’s sources made a number of serious allegations, including: That some moderators smoke weed during the workday to cope; some have sex in the office, as part of what one source called “trauma bonding”; that employees can end up with “PTSD-like symptoms,” and that some are becoming radicalized by the conspiracy theory content they’re responsible for policing, and ultimately come to believe it. (The full investigation is exhaustive, clocking in at nearly 7,500 words, and is worth reading in full.)

On top of it all, they’re paid less than $29,000 — a tiny fraction of the median salary of a full-time Facebook employee, which is around $240,000.

Business Insider spoke to two other content moderators for Facebook in America, who confirmed that they were paid relatively low salaries. One said they were paid around $28,000 a year: “Half my pay goes to rent practically. I can’t even afford to take on car payments or [pay] my student loans.” The other said they made $16.50 per hour for a day shift, which works out to roughly $34,000 a year.

They said they hadn’t heard of employees smoking weed or having sex at their offices (it’s worth noting this may vary by location), but were still otherwise critical of their working conditions.

“I have no doubt the content has consumed some people, especially those working in specific content queues that may contain more graphic images/videos, and or dealing with child exploitation. I’m not so sure about the conspiracy theory aspect of it but it wouldn’t be surprising if people believed in the shit they see every single day especially because a lot of it is the same thing over and over. I also don’t blame the ones who probably need to smoke during their breaks [because] this job is inhumane with extremely low wages,” one said.

“Facebook needs to be held accountable for contracting services to undermine pay and benefits, we essentially are saving Facebook’s ass from any PR fire by maintaining a safe platform for the company and in return we are not looked at as Facebook employees as well as our contracting companies get to decide on our [livelihood] and compensation.”

Earlier this month, Business Insider reported that content moderators at an Accenture-managed content moderation site in Austin, Texas were in revolt over onerous rules restricting moderators’ phone usage and break time, rules they said were eroding their “sense of humanity.”

Facebook employees reacted with outrage to the news, complaining internally that Facebook’s actions were “incredibly disappointing” and “inhumane.” The Verge’s new investigation seems likely to further inflame tensions in the company’s workforce.

Facebook’s VP of global operations, Justin Osofsky, shared online a memo on Monday he had previously sent to workers ahead of The Verge’s report. “We’ve done a lot of work in this area and there’s a lot we still need to do,” he wrote in part. “We will regularly evaluate these roles, our needs going forward, the risks, location, mix of the workforce and many more areas.”

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