A group of current and former content moderators became the latest to lash out at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the company’s top leaders over their inaction on a post by President Donald Trump.
The open letter expresses solidarity with the Black community following the death of George Floyd, along with dismay at Facebook’s failure to act on a post from Trump that was interpreted by many as threatening violence against demonstrators for its use of the phrase, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The signees pointed out their familiarity with how Facebook handles questionable content, writing, “We know how important Facebook’s policies are because it’s our job to enforce them. Our everyday reality as moderators is to serve as the public square’s first responders. We oversee all kinds of content, even the most hateful or gruesome, stay proactive and react when necessary to keep all communities safe—while also making sure we enable freedom of expression and information.”
While many Facebook employees protested Zuckerberg’s decision not to act on Trump’s post by virtually walking out on their jobs last week, the content moderators noted that this was not an option for them, due to both nondisclosure agreements with the companies that they work for, as well as financial concerns.
They wrote, “We would walk out with you—if we could afford it. At the moment, content moderators have no possibility, no network or platform or financial security—especially when we are atomized in pandemic and remotely micromanaged—to stage an effective walkout without risking fines, our income and even our right to stay in the countries where we live and work.”
The signees said Zuckerberg expressing his personal dismay with Trump’s rhetoric wasn’t enough, urging the social network’s top management to change course, as well as urging their colleagues: “Let’s mourn. Let’s organize. Let’s unionize.”
They wrote, “Current events prove that we cannot passively accept our role of silent algorithm facilitators—not when our screens are being flooded with hate speech. Not when we are forced to witness the impact of the dogwhistles and countless hours of livestreamed police brutality, of pain inflicted on Black bodies.”
The open letter was signed by four active content moderators who remained anonymous for obvious reasons, as well as former content moderators Reine Laferrere, Anita Pohl, Ibrahim Waziri and Valera Zaicev.