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Best of Slow Journalism: Social media’s ‘content moderators’

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

In the content moderation business “everybody hits the wall” after three to five months, says a former YouTube contractor referred to as Rob.

Rob started screening YouTube clips in 2010 shortly after he moved to the San Francisco Bay area. The first few months he was fine, but soon his work started following him home.

“If someone was uploading animal abuse, a lot of the time it was the person who did it. He was proud of that,” he told reporter Adrian Chen. “It just hurts you so much harder, for some reason. It just gives you a much darker view of humanity.”

Few people scrolling through their newsfeed will think of the content moderators who cleanse their Facebook walls from gory beheadings and sexually explicit pics. In this month’s Wired, Adrian Chen talks to the people who earn a living filtering the viler elements from social media. It’s an industry that employs more than 100,000, from recent Bay area grads to the legions doing the job in the Philippines.

Chen provides a fascinating insight into a hidden business which sometimes drives the people who work in it to paranoia and a sort of PTSD. “How would you feel watching pornography for eight hours a day, every day?” one psychologist says: “How long can you take that?”

Chen’s article on content moderators is our recommended Slow read of the week. You can access the full piece here.



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