Facebook Content Moderators Using Drugs, Sex and Alcohol at Work to Cope With PTSD-Inducing Job: Report

Facebook content moderators coped with reviewing violent, conspiratorial, and bigoted content posted on the site by using drugs and having sex at work, while others developed PTSD and even began believing the conspiracies they were hired to analyze, according to a stunning new report from The Verge.

The outlet spoke to Facebook content moderators based at the social media giant’s review facility in Arizona, which is controlled by the New Jersey-based IT firm Cognizant. The reviewers — who work as contractors making $15 an hour, which balances to a just $28,800 salary — described the working conditions at the site as inhumane.

As the website has become increasingly known in recent years as a go-to platform for racists and conspiracy theorists to form groups and spread their disturbing ideologies, Cognizant’s role is to review questionable content and ensuring it falls within Facebook’s terms of service — meaning the moderators are constantly exposed to some of the worst content on the internet.

This has led to contractors to resort to alcohol, drugs, and sex during work hours to relieve the stress caused by the job — where “drinking to forget” is a running joke. Per the report, contractors have been discovered having sex in stairwells, the parking garage, and lactating rooms meant for nursing mothers. Cognizant’s security responded by removing door locks.

“You get really close to your coworkers really quickly,” one ex-contractor named “Sara” told The Verge. “If you’re not allowed to talk to your friends or family about your job, that’s going to create some distance. You might feel closer to these people. It feels like an emotional connection, when in reality you’re just trauma bonding.”

The contractors were granted a half-hour lunch break, two 15-minute breaks, and a nine-minute “wellness time” break. The facility’s limited number of restrooms meant employees spent much of their break time waiting in line — leading some to use their “wellness time” as a bathroom break when lines were shorter, only to have Cognizant ban the use of bathrooms during the nine-minute stress break.

One employee claimed to The Verge that he kept a firearm on him while at work due to concerns that ex-contractors would return to the facility for revenge against the company, as Cognizant was known to fire employees over small infractions.

This contractor also admitted to buying into some of the conspiracies he was paid to remove, like 9/11 being an inside job and the Las Vegas music festival shooting being carried out by multiple people. The employee in question alleged that he was diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder.

Facebook and Cognizant did not comment on the story.

UPDATE: Facebook’s VP of Global Operations Justin Osofsky released a statement on their content moderation policies several hours after The Verge story was published.

“Given the size at which we operate and how quickly we’ve grown over the past couple of years, we will inevitably encounter issues we need to address on an ongoing basis,” Osofsky acknowledged. “Today, we already have mechanisms in place with our partners who run these sites to make sure any concerns being reported are the uncommon exception and never the norm.”

Read the full report via The Verge.

[image via Getty]

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Caleb Ecarma is a reporter at Mediaite. Email him here: Follow him on Twitter here: @calebecarma