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Facebook moderators demand COVID-19 protections amid return to the office

In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and the CEOs of two outsourcing firms Facebook uses for content moderation, dozens of moderators criticized Facebook for forcing moderators to return to work, despite rising rates of COVID-19 worldwide. The moderators argued that Facebook was only requiring them to return to the office in the midst of a pandemic because during the months when Facebook sent its moderators home, the company's automated filters had failed to catch the most dangerous content, including child sexual abuse and suicide material.

Indeed, a recent Facebook transparency report showed that in the second quarter of this year, while moderators were working from home, Instagram removed less than half of the child sexual abuse material that it removed in the first quarter. Instagram also removed just 275,000 pieces of suicide related content in the second quarter, compared to 1.3 million in the first.

"This raises a stark question. If our work is so core to Facebook's business that you will ask us to risk our lives in the name of Facebook's community—and profit—are we not, in fact, the heart of your company?" the moderators wrote in their letter.

Among the moderators' demands are things like hazard pay and "real healthcare and psychiatric care." They're also asking Facebook to exempt moderators who live with at-risk individuals from being forced to return to the office. The moderators also seek longer-term changes, like an end to outsourced content moderation. "The current crisis highlights that at the core of Facebook's business lies a deep hypocrisy. By outsourcing our jobs, Facebook implies that the 35,000 of us who work in moderation are somehow peripheral to social media," the letter reads. "Yet we are so integral to Facebook's viability that we must risk our lives to come into work."

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