View profile

🚨 Special report: Three former Facebook moderators go on the record

In February, we published The Trauma Floor, an account of the disturbing working conditions at a Face
June 19 · Issue #344 · View online
The Interface
In February, we published The Trauma Floor, an account of the disturbing working conditions at a Facebook content moderation site in Phoenix. The site, operated by a large professional services firm named Cognizant, pays workers less than $30,000 a year in some cases to police the boundaries of speech on the internet. Moderators there told me they had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being subjected to a daily barrage of the worst content posted to Facebook and Instagram.
In the wake of that report, I heard from moderators from all over the world, who do moderation work for every major platform. But more than anywhere else, I heard from current and former moderators in Tampa, FL — home to another Cognizant-operated site, and one that workers told me they believed to be even more dire than Phoenix.
I’ve spent almost four months interviewing a dozen current and former employees of the Tampa site, as well as Facebook executives, Cognizant executives, and employees at the Phoenix site. Today we’re publishing my report: Bodies in Seats, an account of life in a chaotic workplace where some workers told me they fear for their lives.
Some key findings from the report:
  • The Tampa office is Facebook’s lowest-performing site in North America. It has never consistently enforced Facebook’s policies with 98 percent accuracy, as stipulated in Cognizant’s contract.
  • For the first time, three former Facebook moderators in North America are breaking their nondisclosure agreements and going on the record to discuss working conditions on the site.
  • A Facebook content moderator working for Cognizant in Tampa had a heart attack at his desk and died last year. Senior management initially discouraged employees from discussing the incident, for fear it would hurt productivity.
  • Tampa workers have filed two sexual harassment cases against coworkers since April. They are now before the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Facilities at the Tampa site are often filthy, with workers reporting that the office’s only bathroom has repeatedly been found smeared with feces and menstrual blood.
  • Workers have also found pubic hair and fingernails at their desks, along with other bodily waste.
  • Verbal and physical fights at the office are common. So are reports of theft.
  • The Phoenix site has been dealing with an infestation of bed bugs for the past three months.
  • Facebook says it will conduct an audit of its partner sites and make other changes to promote the well-being of its contractors. It said it would consider making more moderators full-time employees in the future, and hopes to someday provide counseling for moderators after they leave.
I hope you’ll read the story, which features incredible illustrations from Corey Brickley and photographs from Amelia Holowaty Krales. We also made a 13-minute video in which you can see and hear from the three courageous moderators who are going on the record today. Their voices are more powerful than any words I can write on this subject, and I hope you’ll listen.
I’ll be making the TV rounds over the next few days to discuss the piece. In the meantime, here’s a podcast I recorded with my boss, Nilay Patel, about this story; and here’s the podcast version of my interview last week with Facebook’s Adam Mosseri and Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, in which I asked why Facebook doesn’t bring more moderators in-house to eliminate the working conditions I have now seen firsthand in Phoenix and Tampa.

Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and other feedback about this story:
Did you enjoy this issue?
If you don't want these updates anymore, please unsubscribe here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Powered by Revue