Facebook is one of many companies to announce that its full-time employees will be working from home until at least the middle of next year, but many of its content moderators are being forced back to the office in the middle of the pandemic. In an open letter addressed to the heads of the organization, more than 200 of these workers are demanding better protections, more remote work options, and hazard pay.
“After months of allowing content moderators to work from home, faced with intense pressure to keep Facebook free of hate and disinformation, you have forced us back to the office,” reads the letter. It also notes that moderators with an increased Covid risk can be excused from work if they have a doctor’s note, but those who live with vulnerable individuals must still go into the office. The moderators demand that anyone who is high-risk or lives with someone high-risk be allowed to work from home indefinitely.
Additionally, while some content, such as anything illegal, must be moderated at the office, any that can be done remotely should be done from home.
The signees also air their grievances over the lack of hazard pay. A content moderator at Accenture’s office in Austin, Texas, generally earns $18 per hour. Anyone coming into the office for high-risk material, such as child abuse, should be paid hazard pay of 1.5x their usual wage.
The final two demands include an end to outsourcing and offering real healthcare and psychiatric care. Right now, content moderators are offered just 45 minutes per week with a ‘wellness coach’ who are “generally not psychologists or psychiatrists and are contractually forbidden from diagnosis or treatment.”
Recent years have seen content moderators from tech giants including Facebook, YouTube, and Microsoft launch lawsuits claiming they developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after viewing disturbing content. In January, it was revealed that a YouTube contractor was asking employees to sign a document acknowledging that the content they would be reviewing may be disturbing and could lead to PTSD.