Facebook content moderators at Accenture – the real agenda for the Q&A with Julie Sweet

In response to a front-page New York Times exposé in September, Julie Sweet, the CEO of Accenture offered Facebook content moderators outsourced to her company a Q&A in response to concerns they’d raised about their working conditions.

Concerned that this wouldn’t be a genuine opportunity to ask questions and get real answers, we supported content moderators working at Accenture worldwide to send an alternative agenda, with questions they’d like answers to, to Julie Sweet. Here is their letter.

RE: Moderator’s Agenda and Questions for the “all people” Q&A 

FROM: Accenture Facebook Content Moderators Worldwide

DATE: 18 October 2021 

TO: Julie Sweet and the Accenture Global Management Committee 

We are Facebook content moderators working for Accenture. We write in light of Julie Sweet’s email following this New York Times exposé about Accenture’s Facebook contract.

In Ms. Sweet’s all-staff email, she thanks us for our work and invites us to an “all people” Q&A. The first of two Q&A sessions is today. Given the seriousness of the issues we and other moderators have raised about pay and working conditions at Accenture, this is welcome. 

Toxic content on Facebook is now on everyone’s minds and Congress’ agenda, thanks to Frances Haugen.

But moderators know – just like Ms. Sweet and Mark Zuckerberg know – that tweaking algorithms alone won’t fix Facebook. Ms. Sweet is right: our work is “vital and important for the ongoing safety of the Internet.”

We hope that the Q&A is a genuine opportunity for us to explain what needs to change to make our work safe and fair, as well as a space for us to question management.

This is the first meeting you have ever called to address our grievances, and we wish to use the time well. Please see our proposed agenda and questions for the Q&A below. It has been collectively agreed by moderators at multiple Accenture sites.

  1. Mental health care

We have been raising concerns about the impact sustained exposure to toxic content has on moderators’ mental health for years. Yet, despite that, instead of giving regular access to psychologists and psychiatrists, Accenture hires coaches with no medical experience or qualifications. While well meaning, these people are not sufficiently qualified to provide us with the care required. 

Our Questions: 

  1. Accenture has admitted this work raises a real risk of mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Will Accenture hire psychiatrists and psychologists instead of wellness and life coaches? 
  2. Facebook (as part of the Technology Coalition) endorsed hard limits on exposure to toxic content six years ago. There should be strict and enforced rules about dangerous content exposure. Will Accenture put a cap, informed by independent clinicians, on the number of hours moderators  spend reviewing toxic material each day?
  1. Moderator’s pay

The Accenture contract with Facebook is worth $500 million per year. You pay most US moderators between $16 and $18.50 an hour. In the Times’ estimation, you receive $50 per hour we work. In expensive cities like Austin, with prices driven up by the tech industry, this falls far short of a living wage. We understand the ratio – of your profit from workers’ pay – is worse still in countries like India and Poland. Meanwhile, Ms. Sweet’s personal salary last year was $17.1 million. This pay disparity is exploitative.  

On top of that, Accenture excludes Spanish and Ukrainian language content moderators and customer service representatives from a premium paid to other bilingual contractors. This is unfair and discriminatory.

Our Questions: 

  1. Will Accenture raise all moderator salaries to reflect the value of our work and the hazards we face on the job?  
  2. Will Accenture extend the hourly bonus afforded to bilingual speakers to all languages, such as Spanish / English and Ukrainian / Polish? If not, why not? 

Ms. Sweet’s email claims that Accenture is exploring how to improve and do what’s right for us, the workforce, who keep Facebook a safe place for users. We are ready to discuss this and hope you will not only listen to our ideas and answer our questions, but also take action.  

We look forward to hearing your responses in the Q&A.

Yours sincerely,  

Accenture content moderators 

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