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

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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: casey@theverge.com.
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