“There was literally nothing enjoyable about the job. You’d go into work at 9am every morning, turn on your computer and watch someone have their head cut off. Every day, every minute, that’s what you see. Heads being cut off.”
That’s how one man, who wished to remain anonymous, characterized his job as a content moderator at Facebook.
“We were underpaid and undervalued,” said the man, who earned roughly $15 per hour removing terrorist content from the social network after a two-week training course.
Pictures, videos, profiles and groups would be flagged either by users or algorithms to review, and his team would decide if they needed to be removed or escalated.
“Every day people would have to visit psychologists. Some couldn’t sleep or they had nightmares.”
Psychologists say that the emotional toll of looking at extreme imagery, whether violent terrorist acts or child sexual abuse, can be punishing.
Workers exposed to such content should have extensive resiliency training and access to counsellors, akin to the support that first-responders receive.
However, testimony from those working to keep beheadings, bestiality and child sexual abuse images off Facebook indicates that the support provided isn’t enough.
“The training and support was absolutely not sufficient,” said the analyst, who worked at a company contracted by Facebook to moderate content.
Facebook company spokeswoman said:
"Every day people would have to visit psychologists. Some couldn’t sleep or they had nightmares. We recognize that this work can often be difficult. That is why every person reviewing Facebook content is offered psychological support and wellness resources.”
Can more be done?
According to Rabbi Avram Mlotek, the answer is YES.
Rabbi, writer and co-founder of Base Hillel, Avram Mlotek is a longtime advocate of using chaplains in Silicon Valley
From Rabbi Avram Mlotek’s recent essay: Why it’s time for Silicon Valley start hiring chaplains:
I am a rabbi, so social media is not my primary operating system. Nevertheless — like billions of other people on Earth — I’m a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram user. Why shouldn’t a sermon reverberate across as many virtual channels as possible? Our globe is interconnected like never before because of such advances in technology, and that is something to be celebrated.
Still, the obvious needs stating: Our spiritual lives have suffered as technology use has expanded. We’ve forgotten how to pause, to look up from the screen, to see and be seen. The ethics of the internet corrode as quickly as they develop.
The onus of responsibility for reevaluating the effects of technology should not lie solely upon users; the providers of this technology share this responsibility too. After all, we occupy this new virtual landscape together. This symbiotic relationship is paralleled in Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism: The mekabel, receiver, can only receive insomuch as the mashpia, provider, can readily give.
That’s why it’s time for Silicon Valley to start hiring chaplains.
Chaplains work on-site in hospitals, prisons and social service agencies providing spiritual care to all — nurses as well as patients, guards as well as prisoners, staff as well as clients. It’s not so farfetched. Technology companies host gyms, massage therapists, keynote speakers and meditation spaces to contribute to the wellbeing of their employees. Why not chaplains too?