- Working for Facebook, Google, Microsoft can be a dream job.
- But not for the internet’s “content moderators” tasked with reviewing questionable material to determine if such things are safe (kids splashing in a bathtub) or not (child abuse).
- Not only is the job itself harsh, but the pay is low and may offer little job security.
2017 has been a year when the ugly side of the tech industry has been on full display. And there is nothing uglier than some of the depraved and illegal videos, photos, and hate speech that people post online.
Content moderators are employed by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and just about every other company that hosts online content shared by users.
But, as you might imagine, the job of evaluating hate speech, violence, pornography, child abuse, bestiality and other such material is a horrible job, several former content moderators told The Wall Street Journal’s Lauren Weber and Deepa Seetharaman. The WSJ even labelled this the “worst job” in tech.
And, it turns out, it’s also a low-paying job. While Facebook, Google and Microsoft are known as some of the best companies to work for, content moderators are often not employees but contractors hired by an employment agency.
Pay rates range from $US13 to $US28 an hour in the Bay Area, the WSJ reports, and a search of employment ads on Glassdoor confirms this range.
One job ad even warns, “Reported content can be graphic so you must be comfortable viewing graphic content.”
Many people don’t make it past their first day on the job and most make it a few months to a year, the WSJ reports. For those that last, contract positions means little job security. When the contract is up, the job may end.
Several companies, including Facebook and Microsoft tell the WSJ that content moderators are provided with, and required to use, psychological counseling. Even so, two content moderators filed a lawsuit against Microsoft a year ago alleging that the job left them with symptoms of PTSD. One of them alleged in the suit that he even had difficulty being around his own son at times because it would trigger memories of violent images against children. The suit is set to go to trail later this year, the WSJ reports.
Ironically, for all the talk of how software bots are replacing human workers, this would be an ideal job for a software robot to do instead of humans. And machine learning for content moderation is being heavily used by the tech giants, including Facebook.
But such tools are still not smart enough to work without human oversight. That became apparent after a series of violent videos were shared on Facebook earlier this year, including a murder in Cleveland and a number of suicides. And that means this job isn’t going away for humans just yet. In May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg even vowed to hire 3,000 more people to help Facebook moderate content worldwide. That was on top of the 4,500 people he already had.