Facebook content moderators in Europe and the US are calling on the company to end overly restrictive nondisclosure agreements that discourage people from speaking out about working conditions. In a letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and the CEOs of Covalen and Accenture, moderators say these NDAs are not limited to user data and help maintain a culture of “excessive secrecy.”
“Despite the company’s best efforts to keep us quiet, we are writing to demand that the company’s culture of fear and excessive secrecy end today,” the moderators write. “No NDA can legally prevent us from speaking out about our working conditions.”
The news comes amid escalating tensions between the company and its contract content moderators in Ireland. In May, a moderator named Isabella Plunkett testified before a parliamentary committee to try to make changes to the law.
“The content being moderated is appalling,” she said. “It would affect everyone… To help, they offer us wellness coaches. These people mean well, but they are not doctors. They suggest karaoke and painting, but to be honest, you don’t always feel like singing after seeing someone cut to pieces.”
The letter asks that the company provide moderators regular access to clinical psychiatrists and psychologists. “Imagine spending hours and hours abusing violent content or children online as part of your day-to-day job,” they write. “You can’t stay unharmed. This job should not cost us our sanity.”
Moderators also want to be brought in, because the current system makes them second-class citizens. They appeal to the company to give them the same pay and benefits as full-time Facebook moderators.
The letter currently has 60 signatures from moderators in Dublin, Lisbon and Barcelona – as well as parts of the US. It was written in collaboration with Foxglove, a British non-profit organization that focuses on technical justice.
“Facebook content moderators around the world operate grueling services that wade through a never-ending stream of the worst material on the Internet,” Foxglove executive director Martha Dark said in a statement. “Yet moderators don’t get proper, meaningful, clinical long-term mental health support, they have to sign very restrictive NDAs to keep them quiet about what they’ve seen, and the vast majority of the staff work through outsourcing companies where they don’t get the same support and anywhere near the same.” benefits that Facebook gives its own staff.”
In a statement, Facebook opposed the idea that moderators cannot access mental health services. “We recognize that reviewing content can be a difficult task, so we work with partners who support their employees through training and psychological support when working with challenging content,” said a spokesperson. “In Ireland, this includes 24/7 on-site support with trained practitioners, on-call duty and access to private healthcare from day one of employment. We also use technology to limit their exposure to graphic material as much as possible.”
Neither Accenture nor Covalen have made any statement prior to publication.