Facebook must pay $52M for 11,250 content moderators' mental health issues caused on the job

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/05/13/facebook-must-pay-52m-for-11.html

Current and former moderators will be paid at least $1,000


But I am sceptical what this means for the rest of the people doing such terrible jobs.


$1000 will fix everything.


I wonder what percentage of the money made for Facebook by these victims while they were being traumatized is represented by the $52M? I’m thinking single digits here. This isn’t even a slap on the wrist. It’s a stern glare and walking away shaking your head.


I’m still hoping that FB can be nickled and dimed to death by rulings like this.


Does this set a precedent for a whole range of people with potentially traumatizing jobs? ER doctors and nurses, cops, train conductors, soldiers, firefighters, reporters, social workers, missionaries, and so many more.


Moderators harmed, you say? :thinking:

I’ve been doing this long enough now on the incredibly tame by comparison BBS to know that these folks are not being paid enough. Not nearly so.


I hope so.

Cops and missionaries will be open to counterclaims of being traumatized though. Squaddies won’t be but their commanding officers will.


I appreciate the sentiment but that seems really low.


It’s always too low, whether it is government or business.

They give an amount of money that sounds impressive to people who have never needed mental health care, but is an order of magnitude or two too low to actually fix the problems.


Letting platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube continue at their current pace while leaving it up to human moderators that get PTSD and ineffective algorithms to moderate a mere fraction of the abhorrent content uploaded is not a tenable situation for us, as a society, to be in. We need to start asking serious questions about why “You can upload as much as you want whenever you want, we’ll serve up ads against that content, and then we’ll use underpaid contract workers and ineffective algorithms to sort out just some of it” is treated as a valid, and legal business model that a corporation is allowed to have.

For example: YouTube has 400 hours of content uploaded a minute. Maybe it’s not responsible or moral for a company to allow for 400 hours of content to be uploaded a minute? Maybe it’s not a good idea for a social network with 2.6 billion monthly active users like Facebook to exist? Maybe we should question the morality of allowing a massive platform like Twitter to exist when Dorsey has made it clear that Trump gets a free pass to sow chaos, spread lies, and foment his countless ignorant fascist followers while underpaid and overworked moderators attend to the attacks and harassment and vile bullshit that said followers spread in his name, but never get to drop the much-needed banhammer on 45 himself?

A wide swath of small to medium scale companies with a smaller relative amount of people on their social network platforms would be dealing with a much smaller amount of content on their own turf compared to the deluge on massive platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Experimentation with business models could happen, maybe finding business models that de-emphasize quantity of content uploaded and emphasize quality instead.

But that experimentation can’t happen when large platforms like the aforementioned three continue unhindered. The companies need to be broke up, torn apart, and the earth on which they stood needs to be salted. Or at least have their now-vacant office space rented out to companies whose executives have some semblance of souls.


I think the situation is more nuanced than that. All of these analyses seem to leave out the obvious inertia issue - the reason everyone joined FB is that’s where everyone was. The reason I joined Twitter was that the people I wanted to follow were there, and there was a nonzero chance they’d actually read what I wrote to them.

A place like the BBS is easier to moderate, but a critical mass of folks won’t end up here. This is what prevents all the “distributed” options like Mastodon and Diaspora from gaining traction. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have the technical expertise to do this stuff, but it doesn’t matter what you build if people don’t want to go there.

So, breaking up these companies doesn’t do much except make it harder for grandma and the fam to land in the same places - you get back to the land of myfamily.com and having a dozen different platforms to talk to everyone. As someone who has spent my life around this sort of technology, that’s fine with me, but there’s a reason that my parents and non-technical family didn’t get involved in social media until facebook and instagram.

It’s an interesting parallel to the COVID-19 situation. The government can mandate all the want for businesses to reopen, and those businesses can open - but if people don’t want to go out, then all the government intervention in the world isn’t going to accomplish anything.

It’s an overly simplistic take to say “The government should break them up and people will do the right thing”, because history shows they will, instead, take the path of least resistance.


Will be impressed if it is paid out, and based on what I read, it is not enough.

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Who can do that? The US of A’s government? From where I stand, they’re busy removing regulations, policies, and laws that stop corporations (and their super-wealthy owners) from running over everyone and everything else, from humans to the environment.
Well, everything but the economy. And a part of the economy game is Big Data. The government doesn’t want to disturb them.

I agree with most of your points but have an issue with this one because shouldn’t the question be asked - why is it that fb ended up being the place everyone was? I’m just going to parrot cory talking points again but he’s right, part of fb’s success (as i’m sure you know) is they scraped myspace for all your contacts when given permission by the user then pulled up the drawbridge and sued any startup wanting to do the same to them.

Adversarial interoperability converts market dominance from an unassailable asset to a liability. Once Facebook could give new users the ability to stay in touch with MySpace friends, then every message those Facebook users sent back to MySpace—with a footer advertising Facebook’s superiority—became a recruiting tool for more Facebook users. MySpace served Facebook as a reservoir of conveniently organized potential users that could be easily reached with a compelling pitch about why they should switch.


You make good points. I’m just frustrated with the situation we’re in, where these massive platforms and the unfathomable quantity of content that’s uploaded to them each and every day lets lies and hate pour through the cracks, sometimes with help from the higher-ups (looking at you, Mr. Dorsey), and those lies and hate undoubtedly have a negative and radicalizing effect on people that’s helping to burn our society to the ground. As the stories of these Facebook moderators who came to believe that 9/11 was an inside job and other conspiratorial garbage show, media literacy and common sense and education can only protect you so much; get exposed to lies, conspiracy theories, and other vile things enough and they will have a negative effect on you.

I guess the radical position I’m willing to take is that, maybe the Internet shouldn’t have become so easy this quickly? Maybe people enabled the uber-democratization of information and content creation tools way too fast in a mad dash for profit and that was a huge mistake? Maybe participating in social networks and message boards on the Internet is something that, at this point in time right now, should’ve been something you have to jump through a few more complex hoops to do, rather than what it currently is where you download an app, plop in your email and a password, and get right in the thick of it?

I don’t think that demanding that the things that cause complications in life to please vanishes and never be replaced by anything else is going to be a winning strategy. “All the companies I personally don’t like should vanish” isn’t a policy, it’s a fanciful wish.

is it possible to retrain moderators and move them into higher paying careers?

1000% right there. Sadly.

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