Facebook Moderators Are Dying at Their Desks

Hell Factory

At a Facebook content moderation facility in Tampa, Florida, contractors working for Cognizant are regularly subjected to traumatizing, unsanitary, and dangerous conditions — that in at least one case literally led to a death. The contractors, who review as many as 200 flagged Facebook posts per day depicting animal abuse, sexual abuse, murder, and other horrifying acts, are subjected to hellish work conditions. That’s according to an investigation by The Verge‘s Casey Newton that reveals how tens of thousands of people spend their days exposed to the very worst that the internet has to offer.

Horror Stories

One such contractor had a heart attack at his desk, later dying in a hospital — in part, perhaps, because Cognizant doesn’t provide on-site defibrillators. The next day, management refused to tell the deceased contractor’s coworkers what happened, instead insisting that he would be fine while passing around a get-well card. Other employees broke their non-disclosure agreements to share how they had to work at filthy desks when they were violently sick because taking the day off would mean getting fired. Even more talked about how HR ignored or laughed-off reports of sexual harassment and violent threats. “I think Facebook needs to shut down,” one moderator told Newton.

Temporary Workforce

Ultimately, Newton concludes that massive platforms like Facebook and Google treat their armies of content moderators as disposable because they believe that artificial intelligence will someday be able to do the job for them.

Newton writes that the human moderators, many of whom walk away with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, are “viewed as a speed bump on the way to an AI-powered future.”

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