Ukrainian content moderators among Facebook’s lowest paid workers

On Oct. 19, the employees of the U.S. firm Accenture, the company which hires content moderators for Facebook, run a mobile billboard outside the Accenture office in Washington, targeting Accenture CEO Julie Sweet. Last year she made a total of $17 million, while moderators are pleading fruitlessly for higher pay.Photo by Foxglove/TwitterPopular
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Ukrainian moderators who clean up harmful content on Facebook are among the lowest paid employees in the company, according to an internal letter shared by Facebook’s content moderators with the U.S. technology news website The Verge, owned by Vox Media.

According to the letter, Ukrainian and Spanish content moderators make roughly $16-17 an hour. They are also excluded from a $2 per hour premium paid to other bilingual workers. American moderators make almost $32 per hour. 

Content moderators remove hate speech and violence from Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook acquired in 2012. 

It is stressful and an unappealing job: roughly 15,000 of the company’s full-time employees worldwide are exposed to content that contains hate speech and graphic content eight hours a day.

A 2020 survey estimated that half of all Facebook moderators might develop mental health disorders. Many said they had started experiencing depression, anxiety and paranoia.

Aware of the trauma to which this job leads, Facebook promised to replace human moderators with artificial intelligence. However, today, the technology is not perfect and only removes a fraction of the content that breaks Facebook’s rules. 

The majority of posts fall on the shoulders of human moderators, many of whom work in Ukraine or across Eastern Europe, where labor is cheaper.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen — who leaked documents to the Wall Street Journal showing that the company was aware of the use of its platform to spread hate speech, graphic content and violence — said that the company did not dedicate equal resources to combating misinformation and hate speech in non-English content.

Two moderators working in Eastern Europe, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed Haugen’s assertions to U.K. media outlet iNews on Oct. 8.

“Facebook’s policies are designed by English speakers for English speakers with little thought given to the problems that cause for moderators dealing with content that isn’t in English,” the moderators said.

Facebook doesn’t employ content moderators directly — the company outsources the work to a third-party contracting firm Accenture, based in Austin, Texas. Since 2012, the company has hired at least ten consulting firms globally to help weed out harmful content. Accenture is the company’s star client.

According to a New York Times report, Accenture has a $500 million contract with Facebook to perform content moderation. However, most of the profit ends up in the pocket of Accenture CEO Julie Sweet. Last year she made a total of $17 million, while Accenture keeps ignoring moderators’ pleas for higher pay.

To protest, moderators decided to run a mobile billboard outside the Accenture office in Washington and Sweet’s mansion in Maryland on Oct. 19, saying “Julie Sweet stop exploiting your workers. Pay up. Clean it up. Fix it.”

Accenture employees also compiled a list of demands, shared by Foxglove Legal, the U.K. nonprofit organization backing the protesters.

Moderators asked Facebook and Accenture to improve mental health care. Today, Accenture hires coaches with no medical experience or qualifications instead of psychologists and psychiatrists, protesters said.  Employees also demand better pay for their grueling work.

Many moderators are afraid to speak up publicly because of the company’s nondisclosure agreements. “We helped organize this letter so moderators could get round Accenture and Facebook’s climate of fear,” Foxglove Legal wrote on Twitter on Oct. 18.

For Facebook, content moderators are essential but also very expensive. The company spends nearly $2 million a week or over $100 million a year on hate speech moderation, according to an internal Facebook document obtained by the Wall Street Journal, a U.S. newspaper. 

“Hate speech is our most expensive problem,” the documents said.

The Kyiv Post’s technology coverage is sponsored by Ciklum, ELEKSIntelliasInteticsIteraParimatch TechSimCorpSoftServe and TECHIIA. The content is independent of the donors.

(C)KYIV POST 2021

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