Earlier this year, The Verge published an eye-opening report that detailed the lives of contractors who moderate the platform’s content.
The piece heaped criticism on Facebook, a company that could probably do with a lot less criticism these days. But, in a surprising move, Facebook announced that it will now raise the pay of its content moderators and will work on raising the pay of contractors in other offices around the world.
The Tough Job of Content Moderation
Though Facebook is now raising the pay of its content moderators, much of the damage has already been dealt.
Byproducts of moderating Facebook’s content ranged from mild to severe. Some employees embraced conspiracy theories. An employee adopted the viewpoint that the earth is flat, while another believed that 9/11 was an inside job. Moreover, some employees experienced post-traumatic stress once leaving the job while some reported panic attacks on the clock.
This was compounded with Cognizant’s strict rules enforced by upper management who Facebook tasked to hit high accuracy goals. These goals are based on a sample audit of contractor decisions to pull content. An internal Facebook team reviewed this audit. The team then decided if it was accurate, with Cognizant tasked to hit 95 percent accuracy. That number was a challenging goal as moderators would have to adhere to Facebook’s community standards while sloughing through the minutia and nuance of online content. As a result, Cognizant upper management typically fired moderators after a few mistakes.
To combat the pressures of the job, many employees turned to getting high during work hours. Dark humor and inappropriate conversations around work were the norm, and employees frequently had sex with coworkers on the clock.
Facebook Addresses the Controversy
Besides using drugs and sex on the job, many critics pointed out the low pay of the job. Content moderators received $15 an hour. In this new pay raise by Facebook, moderators will now receive $18 an hour. An average Facebook employee earns an annual salary of $240,000, but this raise is a step in a positive direction.
“Today we’re committing to pay everyone who does contract work at Facebook in the US a wage that’s more reflective of local costs of living,” the company said in a blog post. “And for those who review content on our site to make sure it follows our community standards, we’re going even further. We’re going to provide them a higher base wage, additional benefits, and more supportive programs given the nature of their jobs.”
The company also outlined ways they are looking to care for content moderators. These include providing well-being and resilience training and also new preferences for moderators that allows them to blur graphic images by default before review. The company now also requires all contractors to provide on-site counseling during all business hours, not just specific hours during the day.
“Content review at our size can be challenging and we know we have more work to do,” said Facebook. “We’re committed to supporting our content reviewers in a way that puts their well-being first and we will continue to share steps forward on this important topic.”