Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress on Wednesday to defend Facebook’s new cryptocurrency project, Libra, but U.S. lawmakers quickly seized the opportunity to grill him on other issues.
The Facebook CEO fielded questions on a variety of topics, from the company’s policies on diversity and false political advertisements to the accuracy of “The Social Network” movie.
Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter used her time to ask Zuckerberg about how Facebook treats its content reviewers.
“Facebook is known as a great place to work. But Facebook doesn’t use its employees for the hardest jobs in the company… you’ve got about 15,000 contractors watching murders, stabbings, suicides, other gruesome, disgusting videos for content moderation.”
Zuckerberg confirmed to the California Congresswomen that her assessment was correct. These Facebook contractors have the important job of policing the site for content that breaches company guidelines. This involves examining and removing thousands of disturbing videos and photos that are uploaded every second.
During her exchange with Zuckerberg, Porter highlighted how the nature of this work can have a severe impact on mental health and has resulted in contractors developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
Another concern for the Congresswoman is a Facebook practice she described as “straight out of an episode of Black Mirror,” a Netflix Original series featuring high-tech dystopian dramas.
“According to one report I have… these workers get nine minutes of supervised wellness time per day. That means nine minutes to cry in the stairwell while somebody watches them.”
According to Porter, Facebook’s content reviewers are only allowed nine minutes of wellness time per shift. During this time they are supervised by a colleague.
Porter asked Zuckerberg if he would be willing to take on a full-time job as a content reviewer for Facebook. The CEO appeared to brush off the question before the Congresswoman interjected, “you’re saying you’re not willing to do it.”
Porter uploaded the exchange with the Facebook CEO to her Twitter account.
BREAKING: CEO Grossly Underpays Employees Doing Excruciating Work, Won't Commit to Doing This Work Himself pic.twitter.com/PStq6AMwnF
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) October 23, 2019
This exchange wasn’t the first time Facebook faced criticism for how it treats content reviewers. In February, technology site The Verge released a report about working as a Facebook contractor in the U.S. The report revealed how contractors would watch and remove horrendous murders, child pornography and other gruesome content that had been uploaded to Facebook by users.
On the same day the report was released, Facebook made a public post responding to concerns over how the company treats its content reviewers. The report outlined a number of steps the company was taking to address issues in the workplace.
Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice president of global operations, said:
“We are committed to working with our partners to demand a high level of support for their employees; that’s our responsibility and we take it seriously”