A new article by The Verge reveals the horrid conditions at one of Facebook’s worst-performing content moderation sites in North America. The location, which has been called a “sweatshop in America,” has seen the death of one contractor, Keith Utley, and many complaints about the business’ working conditions.
The site is located in Tampa, Florida, and is operated by Cognizant, a professional services vendor. According to former employees, Utley was exposed to “unwordly” stress throughout his job, which involved moderating Facebook for hate speech, murders, and child pornography.
“I did a lot of coaching,” one former employee said.
“I spent some time talking with him about things he was having issues seeing. And he was always worried about getting fired.”
Even following Utley’s death, Cognizant was reportedly unsympathetic.
“We were bodies in seats,” one former moderator said, adding that they were valued as “nothing” to the company.
Not only is the stress reportedly sky-high, but the working conditions are said to be dismal. Former employees spoke of bed bug infestations and a lack of financial compensation for an infestation that spread to workers’ homes.
“Bed bugs can be found virtually every place people tend to gather, including the workplace,” Cognizant said in a statement, adding that they have no record of facility associates formally requesting infestation treatment for their homes. The company also claimed that if such a request was made, they would be open to working with them to determine a solution.
If you’re still on @facebook, you must read today’s tremendous @verge story by @CaseyNewton on content moderators. It raises troubling questions about Facebook & the contractor economy. Casey and The Verge deserve awards for this. https://t.co/PAF1Y5hvAu— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) June 19, 2019
Melynda Johnson, a former employee at the Tampa site, shed light on the poor working conditions of the company and suggests that the building was always “disgusting.”
“You’d go in the bathroom and there would be period blood and poop all over the place. It smelled horrendous all the time.”
“It’s a sweatshop in America,” she added.
Facebook has come under fire in recent years for a string of scandals that have caused many to question the integrity of the company. Wired reports that the company was used by Russian trolls to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, played a role in the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and misappropriated the data of tens of millions of Americans without their knowledge before the 2016 presidential election.
In addition to social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook has also been accused of political bias and as acting as a publisher while retaining the legal benefits of a platform.
Although Cognizant runs Facebook’s worst-performing content moderation site, it’s nevertheless caused concern and again sheds doubt on the company’s integrity.