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Facebook’s content moderators demand for an end to culture of ‘fear and secrecy’

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Content moderators employed by social media giant Facebook are demanding that the company end a culture of “fear and secrecy”. “Content moderation is at the core of Facebook’s business model. It is crucial to the health and safety of the public square. And yet the company treats us unfairly and our work is unsafe. Today, we write to demand change,” they wrote in an open letter signed by over 100 moderators and addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, and the CEOs of Covalen and Accenture, two contractors who provide moderators to the company.

The letter made three demands of the trillion dollar social media giant — Facebook must end its culture of fear and secrecy, Facebook must provide proper mental health support to all moderators, and it must bring all content moderators in house.

Specifically, they accused Facebook of trying to keep them quiet about talking about their work conditions. “Despite the company’s best efforts to keep us quiet, we write to demand that the company’s culture of fear and excessive secrecy ends today. No NDA can lawfully prevent us from speaking out about our working conditions,” the letter states. “The non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and training sessions Facebook requires us to sign and attend are not, as Facebook suggests, restricted to “user data” and “personal information,” it added.

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Further, the letter claimed that the mental health support Facebook provides to its moderators are “woefully inadequate”. It said that “one off” phone calls and wellness coaches aren’t enough to deal with the mental health issues moderators have been known to face. “It is not that the content can ‘sometimes be hard’, as Facebook describes, the content is psychologically harmful. Imagine watching hours of violent content or children abuse online as part of your day to day work. You cannot be left unscathed. This job must not cost us our mental health,” the letter stated.

It also demands that the company stop contracting third parties to provide moderators, and should instead bring them under its own purview. It accused Facebook of misleading the Irish Parliament, which has been in the process of hearing a complaint against Facebook for mistreating its moderators.

“In its letter to the Irish Parliament, Facebook suggests the work undertaken by content moderators employed directly by the company is more complex than that undertaken by content moderators employed indirectly via companies, such as Accenture,” the letter said. “This is misleading. The work outsourced content moderators undertake is of equal complexity and of equal value to Facebook. Second-class citizenship of outsourced moderators must end today. All content moderators must be brought in house, we should all receive the same pay, benefits, and employment conditions,” it added.

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The letter claims to be written by moderators and Facebook employees from “multiple countries” and is in response to Facebook’s “recent correspondence” with moderators in Ireland. The moderator from Ireland, named Isabella Plunkett, had recently appeared before the Irish Parliament, and said that she had “horrible, lucid dreams” and that her job is to train Facebook’s algorithm so that it can one day replace human content moderators.

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