Buried deep within a recent profile of American Facebook moderators is a key detail: some workers charged with overseeing controversial content have started to adopt fringe positions on key topics, including Flat-Eartherism.
The Verge published a lengthy piece called “The Trauma Floor” on Monday, and it shed light on the plight of Facebook moderators who suffer from anxiety and trauma resulting from the content and the working conditions. It’s a thorough investigation, and it revealed some important facts about how false beliefs are being spread.
To summarize: 9/11 conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, and Flat Earth beliefs are all being spread at this one location for Facebook content moderators.
Over the past three months, I interviewed a dozen current and former employees of Cognizant in Phoenix. All had signed non-disclosure agreements with Cognizant in which they pledged not to discuss their work for Facebook — or even acknowledge that Facebook is Cognizant’s client…
The moderators told me it’s a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Another former employee, who told me he has mapped every escape route out of his house and sleeps with a gun at his side, said: “I no longer believe 9/11 was a terrorist attack.”
This is something I’ve never really thought about, but it does make sense that viewing controversial content regularly could lead to some changes in beliefs over time. It could be said that, if you see or hear anything enough times, it can become believable to some people (there’s a reason that most religions value regular attendance of various faith-based services).
This may not be the most important issue to come out of this report – the author also details terrible working conditions, low average salaries, and much more – but it still gives a glimpse into one more unique way in which false and harmful beliefs are being spread in the era of technology. Just last week, we reported on the spread of Flat Earth beliefs via YouTube algorithm.
Identifying how these false beliefs spread will be critical to the human race eventually overcoming them and improving public education around the world. If we don’t understand the problem, we’ll never come up with a solution, so insights like this are always important to me.