Have you ever wondered what really happens to all the objectionable content you flag on Facebook? Who is it that has to sift through the virtual piles of muck and depravity in order to purify your news feed? Adrian Chen at Wired sought to find out and, in a terrific investigative piece, pulls back a curtain revealing the 100,000 laborers worldwide who spend their days deleting beheadings, gratuitous pornography, and other unwanted content.
Chen visited a complex outside Manila in the Philippines where an army of content moderators were hard at work disappearing gruesome images for the LA-based mobile startup Whisper. The company's CEO had given Chen access because Whisper considers "active moderation" to be a selling point. But in his piece, Chen notes that not every social media company is as willing to share this virtually unknown segment of their operation. Part of that may be because of what these laborers are paid:
"Moderators in the Philippines can be hired for a fraction of American wages. Ryan Cardeno, a former contractor for Microsoft in the Philippines, told me that he made $500 per month by the end of his three-and-a-half-year tenure with outsourcing firm Sykes. Last year, Cardeno was offered $312 per month by another firm to moderate content for Facebook, paltry even by industry standards."
Chen's article is a long read but well worth the time as he meticulously dissects both the industry side of the story as well as the personal impact this sort of work has on employees. One former moderator quit after encountering a grisly beheading. He realized he didn't want to become desensitized to the worst of the web as his co-workers had been. It's probably a lot like being a cop or coroner -- after a while, the ugliness of the world becomes innocuous and blasé. It is, no doubt, a very dirty job. But someone has got to do it.
Read more at Wired
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In the clip below, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales discusses smart censorship: