Behind the TikTok boom: A legion of traumatized $10-a-day content moderators

Time The magazine has teamed up with a London-based non-profit newsroom called the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in an investigation that finds “horrible” videos “are an integral part of the daily work of TikTok moderators in Colombia”.

They told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism of widespread professional trauma and inadequate psychological support, demanding or impossible performance goals, punitive pay deductions and extensive surveillance. Their attempts to unionize to obtain better conditions have repeatedly met with opposition. TikTok’s rapid growth in Latin America – it has around 100 million users in the region – has led to the hiring of hundreds of moderators in Colombia to wage an endless battle against disturbing content. They work six days a week on day and night shifts, with some being paid as little as 1.2 million pesos ($254) a month, compared to around $2,900 for US-based content moderators. ..

The nine moderators could only speak anonymously for fear of losing their jobs or jeopardizing their future employment prospects… The TikTok moderation system described by these moderators is built on demanding performance goals. If workers don’t watch a lot of videos or come back late from a break, they can lose a monthly bonus of up to a quarter of their salary. It’s easy to lose that much-needed extra cash. Ãlvaro, a current TikTok moderator, has a goal of 900 videos per day, with around 15 seconds to view each video. He works from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a two-hour break, and his basic salary is 1.2 million pesos ($254) a month, barely above the Colombian minimum wage. He once received a disciplinary notice known internally as an ‘action form’ for only managing to watch 700 videos in one shift, which was considered ‘work avoidance’. Once a worker has an action form, he says, he cannot receive a bonus that month…

Outsourcing moderation to southern countries like Colombia works for companies because it’s cheap and workers are poorly protected… For now… the internet’s most nightmarish content.
The moderators interviewed all had the status of “contractor” with the Parisian company Teleperformance, which last year made a profit of 557 million euros (620 million dollars) out of 7.1 billion euros (8.1 billions of dollars) in revenue. In fact, Teleperformance has over 7,000 content moderators globally, according to Market Research Future stats, and surveyed moderators said that in addition to TikTok, Teleperformance has also provided content moderators to Meta, Discord, and Microsoft.

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