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Facebook moderator describes 'awful' content, told to try 'karaoke or painting'

Facebook moderator describes 'awful' content, told to try 'karaoke or painting'
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A Facebook content moderator called on Irish lawmakers to regulate the social media giant’s approach to policing its platform during a hearing Wednesday.

Isabella Plunkett testified that during her job reviewing content for Facebook she has been exposed to child abuse and graphic material that caused her mental health struggles.

The “wellness coaches” offered to her by Facebook and the moderation outsourcing firm Covalen have been insufficient, she said.

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“These people mean well but they’re not doctors,” Plunkett testified. “They suggest karaoke or painting – but you don’t always feel like singing, frankly, after you’ve seen someone battered to bits.” 

Plunkett testified alongside representatives from the progressive tech organization Foxglove and Ireland’s Communications Workers Union in the first hearing of its kind focused on the concerns of content moderators.

“Today was a critical first step in Ireland towards regulating social media’s factory floor,” Cori Crider, who testified on behalf of Foxglove, said in a statement. “Social media would fall apart without moderators - so it’s high time we valued the work, brought it in house and made it safe.”

A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on the allegations in Plunkett's testimony.

Facebook currently outsources the majority of content moderation to firms like Covalen both in Ireland and the U.S., where some moderators have criticized their working conditions as terrible.

Groups like Foxglove have been pushing for Facebook to end its contracts and bring in moderators as direct employees.

“We’re tired of the second class citizenship,” Plunkett told reporters after the hearing. “Content moderation is Facebook's core business, it needs to be valued like this and not treated as a disposable job.”

Irish Facebook content moderators are set to meet with Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, the government’s second in command, for the second time next week in hopes of pushing for some regulations.