Facebook Contractor Spies on Horrified Moderators. When Does It End?

Facebook released a video last year apologizing for its data misuse that likely swayed the 2016 election. It ends by saying “if this place does what it was built for, we all get a little closer.” That is the problem, Facebook. It’s time to back off.

The Intercept just released an exposé detailing how managers at the Austin, Texas outpost have been pressuring trauma counselors to release information from private therapy sessions. These therapy sessions are meant to counsel moderators hired to “scrub” the site from profane, violent, and disturbing images and text. Their traumatic job requirements have been well-documented.

Accenture, an outsourcing company, hired both the moderators and the counselors for Facebook. One of the counselors, also known as WeCare wellness coaches, refused to comply and eventually resigned.

A Whistleblowing Letter

The Intercept posted a letter from an internal message board that they obtained from anonymous Facebook employees:

“It has come to our attention that an Accenture [manager] pressured a WeCare licensed counselor to divulge the contents of their session with an Accenture employee. The counselor refused, stating confidentiality concerns, but the [manager] pressed on by stating that because this was not a clinical setting, confidentiality did not exist. The counselor again refused. This pressuring of a licensed counselor to divulge confidential information is at best a careless breach of trust into the Wellness program and, at worst, an ethics and possible legal violation.”

They go on to demand the removal of the manager in question. Since then, they claim that a different manager has started pressing counselors for information.  Overall they see the situation as a “systemic top-down problem plaguing Accenture management.”

Facebook, Of Course, Denies the Issue

Accenture stated that “these allegations were inaccurate.” Meanwhile, Facebook told the Intercept that they “do not believe there was a breach in privacy.” It’s nearly impossible to believe a company like Facebook at this point. Trust in the company dropped by 66% after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

facebook trust
Screenshot from nbcnews.com

How Do You Really Feel, Facebook?

With their sentimental videos, Facebook is trying to show us that they care. They’re not convincing us.  At the very least, we can’t expect them to hold us in higher regard than their own employees. Apparently, that’s not very high.

One moderator told the Intercept,

“We’re trash to them. We’re a body in a seat, and they don’t acknowledge the work we do.”

Another moderator said that Facebook “just wanted to further remove themselves from responsibility for making our lives hell.”

Their work lives sound eerily similar to the brutal working conditions at Amazon. Amazon employees complain of being treated like underpaid robots, while Accenture recently banned employee conversations at work.

One employee said,

“People are afraid to take a wellness break for 10 minutes because they’re gonna have hell to pay.”

Enough Is Enough

If you’re tempted to let them off the hook, maybe you didn’t know that Facebook has recently been caught transcribing our audio chats. Again, they used a third-party to handle their dirty work and they did not notify users of their monitoring activity.

We should keep these breaches in front of us as Facebook attempts to penetrate our lives on an even deeper level.  With their digital currency Libra in development, Facebook is now looking to get direct access to our wallets. With so much resistance to Libra coming from Congress, it might a time we actually need to, gulp, trust the government.

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