Facebook moderators call for better mental health support, end to NDAs

Facebook content moderators are calling to put an end to restrictive non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) that prevent or discourage them from speaking out about working conditions, The Verge reported on Thursday, July 22.

The content moderators made the call through a letter published online addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, and the CEOs of two companies, Anne Heraty of Covalen and Julie Sweet of Accenture, to which Facebook outsources moderator work. 

The moderators said that they have serious concerns about Facebook’s approach to our safety and our wellbeing globally. 

The letter comes amid ongoing tension between the social media giant and moderators, particularly in Ireland, when one moderator came forward to the Irish parliament to talk about work conditions. Twenty-six-year old Isabella Plunkett said in the May 2021 hearing that she couldn’t talk to friends or family about things she saw screening Facebook posts, which may include disturbing content, due to an NDA she signed at the beginning of her contract with Covalen. 

“I’ve done the job for two years and I don’t think I could do it for much longer because of the strain it does cause to your mental health,” Isabella told the BBC.

The letter voiced out these mental health concerns, and demanded for change. “We, the undersigned, have serious concerns about Facebook’s approach to our safety and our well-being globally.”

“Content moderation is at the core of Facebook’s business model. It is crucial to the health and safety of the public square. And yet the company treats us unfairly and our work is unsafe. Today, we write to demand change.”

The moderators have three demands: to put an end to the “culture of fear and secrecy” and the NDAs, to provide more mental health support to all moderators, and to “bring all content moderators in house.” 

“The mental health support provided to us is woefully inadequate. We need regular, long-term, sustained access to clinical psychiatrists and psychologists. One-off phone calls or access to wellness coaches are not enough,” the moderators said. 

They also said Facebook’s letter to the Irish parliament explaining that in-house Facebook moderators do more complex work than outsourced moderators is “misleading.” 

“The work outsourced content moderators undertake is of equal complexity and of equal value to Facebook. Second-class citizenship of outsourced moderators must end today. All content moderators must be brought in house, we should all receive the same pay, benefits, and employment conditions.” 

Moderators that want to sign the letter can proceed here.

Foxglove, the UK-based non-profit working with the content moderators on the letter to Facebook, called the situation “not sustainable and morally bankrupt” in spite of the moderators being "at the core of FB's business model."  

In a statement to the Verge, Facebook said, “We recognize that reviewing content can be a difficult job, which is why we work with partners who support their employees through training and psychological support when working with challenging content."

“In Ireland, this includes 24/7 on-site support with trained practitioners, an on-call service, and access to private healthcare from the first day of employment. We also use technology to limit their exposure to graphic material as much as possible,” Facebook added. – Rappler.com

Gelo Gonzales

Gelo Gonzales is Rappler’s technology editor. He covers consumer electronics, social media, emerging tech, and video games.