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Prague-based media development worker from Poland with a journalistic background. Previously worked on digital issues in Brussels. Piqs about digital issues, digital rights, data protection, new trends in journalism and anything else that grabs my attention.
As an average user, you shouldn't come across any graphic images of child abuse or gruesome killings on your Facebook feed. That's because a content reviewer has already looked at it and decided to pull it off the platform.
Recently, two tech-focused podcasts took a hard look at the harsh working conditions faced by the content moderators. In a brand new episode of the Vergecast from the Verge we get to know more about the lives of American content reviewers, while Mozilla's IRL podcast takes us to the other side of the Pacific, where post policing is outsourced to third parties based in the Philippines.
As we find out, Filipino labourers do the exact same job of sifting through graphic online content as their American counterparts, yet work longer, clocking in for a ten-hour shift instead of an eight-hour one. And even though the pressure is equally high ("if you make more than three mistakes, you are just fired"), they earn a fraction of American wages—$1 to $3 per hour, instead of $15 per hour—meaning that an American moderator makes more in an hour than a Filipino moderator makes in a day.
The two hard-hitting podcasts draw many parallels, though, and thus work best paired together. As we find out, the psychological cost the content reviewers pay is high both in the Philippines and in the U.S., with many labourers experiencing PTSD, anxiety and depression. For example, the Vergecast describes how after a while workers start to believe in conspiracy theories they are reviewing, while IRL mentions a horrifying case of a moderator who committed suicide.
"So think about what kind of lasting effect on your psyche might come from doing this job for a year (...) and then again, for $15/hour it just doesn't seem like a good bargain," we hear on the Vergecast.
The Vergecast episode "Casey Newton on the Secret Life of Facebook Moderators" is linked below and you can find IRL's "The Human Costs of Content Moderation" here.