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Facebook Content Moderators Say the Company Has Risked Their Lives by Forcing Them Back to the Office


Last Updated on 25/11/2020 by Hrithik V

More than 200 Facebook workers from around the world have accused the firm of forcing its content moderators back to the office despite the risks of contracting coronavirus.

The claims came in an open letter written by the content moderators from across the U.S. and Europe that said the firm was “needlessly risking” lives to maintain profits.

“We, the undersigned Facebook content moderators and Facebook employees write to express our dismay at your decision to risk our lives — and the lives of our colleagues and loved ones — to maintain Facebook’s profits during the pandemic,” reads the letter, which was published Wednesday.

“After months of allowing content moderators to work from home, faced with intense pressure to keep Facebook free of hate and disinformation, you have forced us back to the office.”

The moderators go on to demand that Facebook should maximize at-home working, offer hazard pay, end outsourcing and provide “real” health-care and psychiatric care.

Facebook Content Moderators Say the Company Has Risked Their Lives by Forcing Them Back to the Office 1

A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC that the company appreciates the work of reviewing its contents and that it prioritizes their health and safety. 

The social media giant is constantly striving to keep its platform free of objectionable posts, photos and videos outsource much of its content moderating to companies like Accenture and CPL to spot materials on the site that violate its policies, such as spam, child abuse and disinformation.

“Facebook needs us. It is time that you acknowledged this and valued our work. To sacrifice our health and safety for profit is immoral.”

This letter gives a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse into what is happening at Facebook – and all is not well.

Facebook said the reviewers have access to health care and that it had “exceeded health guidance on keeping facilities safe for any in-office work”.

But according to the workers, only those with a doctor’s note are currently excused from working in an office. The workers also made sure to ask Facebook to offer hazard pay and make its contractors full-time staff.

Facebook Content Moderators Say the Company Has Risked Their Lives by Forcing Them Back to the Office 2
At a Facebook deletion centre in Berlin, the agents, who work for a third-party firm, remove illegal hate speech from the social network. | Image source:www.technologyforyou.org

“Before the pandemic, content moderation was easily Facebook’s most brutal job. We waded through violence and child abuse for hours on end. Moderators working on child abuse content had targets increased during the pandemic, with no additional support,” they said.

“Now, on top of work that is psychologically toxic, holding onto the job means walking into a hot zone.”

The letter is addressed to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, and the chiefs of Accenture and CPL as well. It was organised by UK law firm Foxglove, which works on tech policy issues. More than 170 of the signatories were anonymous.

In fact, Facebook is not the only company facing employee concerns about working amid the epidemic.

Amazon, the “work hard. Have fun. Make history” company has also come under scrutiny for conditions in its warehouses, as outbreaks in businesses ranging from manufacturers to finance companies have stoked fears.

Drashti is a free-spirited TheDigitalHacker contributor, who loves writing stories and listening to music. She loves learning and exploring new languages and cultures, and makes sure to click a picture of the same for her Memoir.
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