Facebook content moderators have reportedly broken their NDAs to expose the inner workings of monitoring content on the social media platform. Moderators described traumatic videos and imagery they were made to view on the platform, which alone has reportedly resulted in workplace chaos, physical illness, and the eventual development of PTSD.
Employees at Cognizant — a company contracted by Facebook to moderate its content — have come forward with their stories about what life is like working for the company, as well as the PTSD suffered as a result of moderating disgusting content on the social media platform, according to a recent report by the Verge.
In addition to working in an allegedly filthy environment, current and former content moderators at the Tampa, Florida, site have also reported instances of death threats, sexual harassment, fear of being fired over taking time off work, as well as aloof and inattentive managers, who had initially misled applicants regarding their job descriptions.
Facebook moderator Shawn Speagle tole the Verge that a recruiter at Cognizant initially told him that his job would be helping businesses analyze engagement on their Facebook pages. Speagle said that after just two weeks on the production floor, a manager informed him that his full-time role would actually be reviewing graphic violence and “hate speech” on Facebook.
“They just said me and [my colleague] were very meticulous and had a lot of promise to move up to the SME position,” said Speagle. “They said Facebook is basically shoving all of their graphic violence content to us, that they didn’t want it anymore. So they had to move more people to cover it. And that’s all that we saw, every single day.”
Speagle said that the first video he saw while working on his new assignment involved two teenagers smashing an iguana on a street, while a third teenager filmed the violent incident.
“They beat the living shit out of this thing,” Speagle told the Verge, “The iguana was screaming and crying. And they didn’t stop until the thing was a bloody pulp.”
Cognizant denies accusations that its employees are tasked with surprise-roles, such as moderating graphic content on Facebook, insisting that all employees are made aware of their job descriptions well in advance.
“For our associates who opt to work in content moderation, we are transparent about the work they will perform,” said a Cognizant spokesman, “They are made aware of the nature of the role before and during the hiring process, and then given extensive and specific training before working on projects.”
Speagle said that he watched videos of people throwing puppies into a raging river, putting lit fireworks in dogs’ mouths, mutilating the genitals of a live mouse, chopping off a cat’s face with a hatchet, as well as people playing with human fetuses.
The content moderator added that he was eventually unable to sleep any longer than two or three hours per night, and would frequently wake up crying in a cold sweat.
By June of 2018, Speagle said that Facebook began seeing a slew of videos depicting organs being harvested from children, and that moderators were told they had to watch at least 15 to 30 seconds of each video.
“It was mass panic. All the SMEs had to rush in there and try to help people,” said Speagle, “They were freaking out — they couldn’t handle it. People were crying, breaking down, throwing up. It was like one of those horror movies. Nobody’s prepared to see a little girl have her organs taken out while she’s still alive and screaming.”
Seagle said that due to depression and lack of sleep, it had become difficult for him to exercise.
“I felt like I was trapped inside my own body — I couldn’t, for the life of me, get up from my desk, or I would be yelled at to stay in my desk” said Speagle, “So I was trapped at my desk and in my body. I was so scared.”
The Facebook content moderator added that by February, a psychiatrist had diagnosed him with PTSD, for which he is currently in treatment.
Speagle is not the only content moderator suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Breitbart News reported earlier this year of other Facebook content moderators developing symptoms of PTSD, as well as resorting to using drugs while on break, as a means for escaping the “misery” of seeing traumatic images on the social media platform.
Speagle, who was laid off from his job last October, has reportedly gone back to school to seek his teaching certificate, noting that the horrors he had witnessed on Facebook made him want to make a positive contribution to the lives of young people.
When asked what he thought needed to change, Speagle replied, stating, “I think Facebook needs to shut down.”