“Building a labour movement for content moderators” – Foxglove at MozFest 2019

Foxglove’s Cori Crider teamed up with former content moderator Chris Gray and Josh Franco, Deputy Director of Tech at Amnesty International to run a well-attended session at Mozfest 2019 exploring how we can ensure that the human rights of content moderators are protected.

The session asked:

  • How do we make sure that efforts to prevent horrendous material circulating freely on social media platforms don’t come at the cost of the mental health of the people employed to carry out these tasks?
  • How do we enforce minimum workplace standards for those who have to view the harmful content in order to take the decision to remove it? Who is responsible for setting and enforcing those standards?

Content moderators screen and remove offensive material—hundreds of times a day. Extremist videos, child sexual exploitation, appalling violence. Working conditions facing most content moderators in the 21st-century can be compared to conditions on the factory floor a hundred years ago: under-regulated and hazardous to health.

Content professionals are leaving their jobs over appalling working conditions, often presenting with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After their employment, they receive no onward treatment. These conditions are unsafe. At this session, Chris, Foxglove and Amnesty discussed strategies for bringing labour and human rights protections to bear.

We had a lively discussion, which benefited from powerful first hand testimony from someone with direct experience of working as a content moderator and still living with the after effects.

We also made some exciting connections with labour organisers who are thinking deeply about how best to organise trade unions in such workplaces. We’re looking forward to working more on this issue in the future.