Moderator of Facebook Content: I 'Stood Up and Screamed'

As employees sue, CEO of Sama laments harmful content, wishes she'd never signed a contract
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 17, 2023 8:26 AM CDT
CEO: I Wish My Firm Never Moderated Facebook Content
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/fizkes)

Online content moderation is a stressful job, but someone's got to do it—though now an East African firm is saying it wishes its workers weren't those someones. Per the Guardian, employees are now bringing lawsuits against both outsourcing company Sama and Meta, Facebook's parent, after they say they were traumatized by the content they viewed during the course of their work, including suicides, beheadings, and other violent videos. "You ask the question: 'Do I regret it?'" says Sama CEO Wendy Gonzalez of her decision to take on the Facebook moderation. "If I knew what I know now ... I would have not entered [the agreement]."

Sama, which has an office in Nairobi, Kenya, and is described by Time as "Facebook's largest content moderation provider in Africa," began work for Facebook in 2019. Workers were soon confronted with disturbing material on their screens. "I remember my first experience witnessing manslaughter on a live video," said one employee in testimony before a Kenyan employment court. "I unconsciously stood up and screamed. For a minute, I almost forgot where I was and who I was. Everything went blank."

"I've seen stuff that you've never seen, and I'd never wish for you to see," one moderator tells the Guardian. Time notes that its own investigation also found union-busting and workers receiving low pay at the Nairobi office. Meta disputes its involvement in the complaints, noting it's not registered in Kenya and insisting that it requires all of its partners to offer 24/7 support to workers. Sama, meanwhile, says that certified wellness counselors were always available to employees. Gonzalez says that after "lessons learned," Sama will no longer take on work that involves moderation of harmful content, per the BBC. (More Facebook stories.)

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