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Facebook Content Moderators Revolt Amid Covid Safety Complaints

Ross Kelly

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Facebook

An open letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg has called on Facebook to stop “needlessly risking” moderators’ lives.

Dozens of Facebook workers have complained over health risks after the company was accused of ‘forcing’ content moderators back to offices.

In an open letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, workers have claimed the social media giant is ‘needlessly risking’ workers’ lives.

The open letter insisted Facebook should allow content moderators to continue working remotely or provide additional benefits for putting themselves at risk, including increased rates of pay.

“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 letter states.

“Moderators who secure a doctors’ note about a personal Covid risk have been excused from attending in person. Moderators with vulnerable relatives, who might die were they to contract Covid from us, have not,” it adds.

According to the letter, multiple Covid cases have occurred in several offices. Workers have attempted to contact Facebook leadership personnel – as well as leadership figures at outsourcing firms – but they have allegedly ‘refused’ to take steps to improve safety.

Facebook outsources content moderation work to organisations including Accenture and CPL.

Remote Moderation

Thousands of Facebook employees have been working from home since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. In August, the social media giant said staff would be offered the chance to work from home until summer next year.

However, critics claim that recent calls for content moderators to return to offices come after a failed AI-powered moderation project launched by Facebook this summer.

The letter states: “To cover the pressing need to moderate the masses of violence, hate, terrorism, child abuse, and other horrors that we fight for you every day, you sought to substitute our work with the work of a machine.

“Without informing the public, Facebook undertook a massive live experiment in heavily automated content moderation. Management told moderators that we should no longer see certain varieties of toxic content coming up in the review tool from which we work- such as graphic violence or child abuse, for example.”

Workers claim that the AI “wasn’t up to the job” and frequently missed “risk content, like self-harm” circulated on the platform.

Recommended

The open letter outlines a series of demands which focus largely around improving employee working conditions and preventing Covid outbreaks at office sites.

“All content moderators who are high risk or who live with someone who is high risk for Covid should be permitted to work from home indefinitely,” one demand states.

According to the letter, only content moderators with a doctors’ note detailing their high-risk status are excused from working in the office.

Moderators with high-risk family members, including one living with a child with epilepsy, have been forced to attend work at an office site, the letter alleges.

Facebook should also offer ‘hazard pay’, the list of demands states, with workers paid up to 1.5x their usual wage.

“If you want moderators to risk their lives to maintain ‘community’ and profit, you should pay.”

Since the onset of the pandemic, a number of sizable organisations have come under fire over employee safety. Earlier this year, Amazon drew criticism amid claims it was failing to adequately protect workers at its distribution centres.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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