The median employee compensation at Facebook is $240,000 a year, when you count salary, bonuses and stock options. But some of the contractors Facebook relies on to keep "hate speech ... violent attacks, [and] graphic pornography" out of your newsfeed make a lot less: $15 an hour.

If a new report in The Verge has it right, the work sounds like pure hell.

These aren't the legions of overseas social media contractors whose toil has been well documented before, but instead, a group that includes American workers like the ones in a Phoenix office park working for a Facebook contractor called Cognizant, that The Verge followed.

While they make more than minimum wage, and their salaries higher than they'd be likely to get in retail jobs, the working conditions are described as an experience in constant "trauma bonding."

The report outlines a workplace in which employees say they wind up with symptoms of traumatic stress disorder after spending their days watching videos and flagging the most obscene and fringe content to stop it from spreading on the network.

Some workers said that after being exposed to obvious lies all day long for weeks on end, colleagues began to believe the untruths. Among the employees described: one who started referring to "the Holohoax" after reading so much Holocaust denial content, for example.

Others said that managers began to micromanage "every bathroom and prayer break," perhaps because "employees, desperate for a dopamine rush amid the misery, have been found having sex inside stairwells and a room reserved for lactating mothers."

In fairness, Facebook has been pretty upfront about the challenges it faces -- with a team of 30,000 people doing this kind of content moderation work around the world, including both contractors and full-timers.

But it's worth remembering: this might well be the dirtiest new job of the 21st century.

It's no fun trying to sweep back the tide of noxious content with a broom. And for now at least, somebody has to do it.

Here's what else I'm reading today:

Published on: Feb 26, 2019
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