Wednesday, February 27, 2019

This Article About Facebook Moderators Explains So Much


Two days ago, the Verge posted a feature about the fucked up work lives of Facebook moderators simply called "The Trauma Floor." The vast majority of these people are contract employees hired via staffing companies, are paid much less than the average actual Facebook employee ($28,800 per year), and are extremely prone to PTSD and other stress-related psychological disorders.

The findings by the author of this report, Casey Newton, are deeply disturbing. They had me ready to entirely reverse my position on algorithm software being used to moderate social media content vs. real people. What these people are put through is inhumane.

The real solution might be something more like treating and paying these employees better, actually giving them adequate mental health care and time to access it when they need it instead of nine (nine?) minutes of "wellness time" every day in addition to their 30 minute lunches and 15 minute breaks, which they use to wait in line for the bathroom because there aren't nearly enough bathrooms for the number of people they have doing this shit.

I'm certain that what I do, in blogging for free and writing about politics and various social issues for money, has a negative effect on my general mental health. But I don't have to view literally hundreds of disturbing posts every day, from common hate speech and slurs to literal videos of people being stabbed to death while begging for their lives.

We already knew that the worthlessness and general fucked-up-ness of Facebook's moderation policy were causing a lot of the problems, like suspending women for saying "men are trash" but literally allowing posts that say "autistic people should be sterilized" (an actual example from the article because autistic people aren't a "protected group" according to Facebook). But now we can add "moderators are forced to make each decision in about 30 seconds or risk being fired" and "the moderation policy is constantly being changed on the fly" into the equation.

This article is worth a full read. Even the handy "key findings" list doesn't cover every fucked up thing Newton found, including the on-site alleged "counselor" who, when asked by Newton about the high rates of PTSD among moderators, talked about a made-up thing they called "post-traumatic growth."

When I ask about the risks of contractors developing PTSD, a counselor I’ll call Logan tells me about a different psychological phenomenon: “post-traumatic growth,” an effect whereby some trauma victims emerge from the experience feeling stronger than before. The example he gives me is that of Malala Yousafzai, the women’s education activist, who was shot in the head as a teenager by the Taliban.

I'm just a run-of-the-mill psych nerd and this paragraph makes my entire brain scream. I'd exercise caution in showing this to an actual mental health professional because they'll probably break something.

This is just a fancy version of "whatever doesn't kill you make you stronger," which has about as much legitimacy in the field of psychology as "yoga cures depression." I'm pretty sure that even Malala Yousafzai herself would want to punch that "counselor" in the face for evoking her name for such a crock of shit.

Anyway, you've got to read the whole thing. Then we need to have a discussion about how to approach the issue of social media moderation. I think using AI will ultimately be the best solution, but we're not even a little close to being there. So the only option may be to completely overhaul how these employees are treated. They should be paid a LOT. They need to hire a ton more people so that a lot more time can be spent on each case and they can have much more time to take breaks from the onslaught of horrible as needed. They need real counselors, not "post-traumatic growth" assholes who should have their degrees revoked.

Will this cut into Facebook's profits? You fucking bet it will. So really we need to end capitalism for this to work. Shit.

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