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Facebook says it has 'work to do' improving moderator job conditions

It's not clear there will be fundamental improvements, however.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 25, 2019
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Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook hasn't been shy about hiring thousands of moderators to screen content that violates its policies, but there hasn't been much insight into conditions for those moderators. And unfortunately, it doesn't look great -- The Verge posted an exposé revealing that at least some contractors struggle with anxiety, trauma, inadequate counseling, micro-managing team leaders and low pay. To that end, Facebook Global Operations VP Justin Osofsky has issued a response where it explained its practices and how it might address the problems in the report.

Osofsky acknowledged that Facebook was using contractors to "scale this quickly," including Cognizant (the contractor in the Verge piece), Accenture and Genpact. They have the know-how needed to handle this kind of growth, Osofsky said. The executive also maintained that Facebook had "clear contracts" requiring quality facilities and psychological support, regular visits from Facebook managers and regular reviews of contractors' performance.

The company knows there's "a lot we still need to do," the VP said. To that end, he pointed to recently hired partner management leader Arun Chandra implementing several new measures. Facebook will have a "rigorous and regular" process for auditing contractors and enforcing policies, use standardized contracts to ensure consistent policies, hold summits to "reinforce" expectations and bolster communications.

These kinds of issues aren't unique to Facebook. Reddit moderators have faced their own psychological issues and abuses while going unpaid. However, Facebook's response might not help matters much. It's clear that moderators are dealing with trauma and obsessive management in spite of Facebook's existing policies. The company is also promising high-level changes that won't necessarily address the specific issues, such as short breaks, hard-to-access counselors and Facebook's own changing rules. While the situation could improve, there isn't evidence of immediate, concrete action at this stage.

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