The professional service provider Cognizant will leave the content moderator business after two Verge investigations into working conditions on sites dedicated to Facebook, the companies said today. Cognizant had hired thousands of moderators around the world to remove hate speech, terrorism and other inappropriate content from platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.
"We have determined that certain content work in our Digital Operations practice is not in line with our strategic vision for the company and we intend to end this work over time," the company told The Verge in a statement . "This work is largely focused on determining whether certain content violates customer standards – and may involve offensive materials."
Cognizant will honor its remaining contracts, but will complete its obligations in 2020, the company said.
In February, The edge published a study of working conditions on the site of the company in Phoenix. Moderators described on the site were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome after a daily attack of graphic and disturbing images. Others said they had come to embrace marginal points of view after having regularly seen videos about conspiracy theories. Several employees report fear of their safety after being threatened by colleagues.
A follow-up report in February focused on a site in Tampa, FL, where moderators broke their confidentiality agreements to describe a pattern of abuse by managers. She described working in offices that were often filthy and where cases of sexual harassment had resulted in multiple complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Phoenix and Tampa sites will both close after March 1, Facebook said The edge in a statement. "Cognizant and Facebook strive for a smooth transition during this period of change," said a Facebook spokesperson.
Cognizant "represents a small percentage of Facebook's global content assessment efforts," the spokesperson said. Facebook said it would increase the number of moderators it has on a site in Texas that is managed by Accenture.
"One of the reasons we work with partners is to be able to make adjustments quickly to ensure that Facebook remains safe for people," said the spokesperson. "The content reviewers at Cognizant have played a valuable role in keeping our platforms safe for people around the world and we thank them for the work they have done and still do."