filter social media Removing content that is abusive or other prohibited material is one of the toughest jobs in technology, but also one of the most underrated. Content moderators for TikTok and Meta in Germany have joined forces to demand more recognition for employees hired to remove some of the worst content from the social platform, in a rare moment of coordinated boycotts by technology workers across companies.
The combined organization met in Berlin last week and demanded higher salaries, more psychological support and the ability to form unions and organize from the two platforms. Low pay and prestige make hosts unskilled workers unfairly in the eyes of German employment rules, workers say. It forced them to endure more than a year of immigration red tape to stay in the country, said a moderator who spoke to WIRED.
“We want to see that the recognition of moderation is not an easy job, but an extremely difficult, high-skilled job that actually requires a lot of cultural and linguistic expertise,” said Franziska Kuhles, who already holds a position at TikTok. Four years of content reviewer years. As part of the employees’ elected works council, she was one of 11 elected members chosen to represent workers in the company’s Berlin office. “It should be considered a real profession and people get the respect that comes with it.”
Last week’s meeting marked the first time moderators from different companies have met formally in Germany to exchange experiences and collaborate on a unified appeal for workplace change.
TikTok, Meta and other platforms rely on moderators like Kuhles to ensure that violent, pornographic and illegal content is removed. While algorithms can help filter some content, the more sensitive and nuanced tasks fall to human moderators. Much of the work is outsourced to third-party companies around the world, and moderators often complain about low wages and poor working conditions.
Germany is a hub for content moderation in Europe and the Middle East, has relatively progressive labor laws that allow for the establishment of elected job councils, or Works Council, within companies, the legally recognized structure is similar to, but distinct from, trade unions. Employers must consult the works council on major company decisions and can elect its members to the company’s board of directors. TikTok employees in Germany will form a job council in 2022.
Hikmat El-Hammouri, regional organizer of the Berlin-based trade union Ver.di, called the summit “the result of the work of union organizers in the workplaces of social media companies to help these important online safety workers – content moderators – for them. Fight for the justice you deserve.” He hopes the collaboration between TikTok and Meta employees will help bring new levels of accountability to tech companies with employees in Germany.
TikTok, Meta and Meta’s local moderation contractors did not respond to requests for comment.
From Kenya to India to the U.S., moderators often complain of tiring jobs, high quotas and little time to make decisions about content; many report PTSD and psychological damage . Recognizing this, many companies offer auditors some form of psychological counseling, but some employees say this is not enough.
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