Recently I met a former content moderator for Google who developed PTSD after daily exposure to terrorism and child abuse. Today @DaisySRivkin is going on the record to discuss her experiences. https://www.theverge.com/2019/12/16/21021005/google-youtube-moderators-ptsd-accenture-violent-disturbing-content-interviews-video …
Unlike the contractors who make up most of Google’s workforce, Daisy had access to the world’s best benefits and gold-plated health care. But that didn’t stop her from developing severe long-term mental health consequences.
My piece today compares Daisy’s experience with the experiences of low-paid immigrant contractors I met in Austin, YouTube’s largest content moderation site in the United States.
They work in what’s known as “the VE queue” — a job that requires them to watch 120 videos a day suspected of containing violent extremism. And they, too, suffer from anxiety, depression, and night terrors — for $18.50 an hour.
Google does take steps to care of these employees. It offers them two hours of wellness time per day — compared to nine minutes at Facebook — and access to counselors.
But for some number of its 10,000 moderators, that won’t be enough to prevent them from developing debilitating long-term mental health issues. And Google stops providing care the moment they can no longer do the job.
Content moderation makes the internet safe for the rest of us to use. But after talking to more than 100 moderators this year, I believe that the bargain tech companies are offering many of these workers is morally indefensible.
Companies know that these jobs lead to mental health crises. Google has even published research about it. And yet they continue to hire thousands of people into low-paid jobs that, for some subset of employees, lead to PTSD.
This is a story about what that feels like, moment to moment. It’s a story about doing the best you can in a situation that feels worse every day. It’s a story about the human cost of making the internet safe.
This is the Terror Queue.
You can follow @CaseyNewton.
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