Our Blog

Facebook Hires Thousands of Filipinos to Police Content

With the expansive rise in social media usage, the online community has become a world of its own in which ‘fake news’, sensational content or dangerous material can be shared at just the click of a button. In many cases of extreme violence or terrorism, social media has been at the heart of discussion with people claiming it helps spread these beliefs, or helps to give much-wanted publicity to these horrific crimes. Social media has also been at the heart of much controversy with Facebook Live, which has been host to many suicide acts and fatal shootings since launching.

With various governments globally calling on social media to address their responsibilities, Facebook has reportedly begun hiring additional young Filipinos to start acting as ‘content curators’ on their platform. As Reuters reports, they’re set to hire over 3,000 people during 2017, totalling 4,500 moderators overall, to help speed up in the removal of videos that contain distressing and violent imagery, such as murder, suicide and other acts.

This is not only crucial to the mental and physical safety of its users, but also to the brand’s reputation. It is important for all users in the community to feel safe, especially as many are young, easily influenced or vulnerable. It is becoming increasingly important with the rise in usage of Facebook Live among the social network’s 1.9 billion monthly users, as this doesn’t actually censor what content gets shown immediately to users. They therefore have no choice in what they witness, which can mean being exposed to violent imagery or nudity that they’d otherwise avoid.

Previously, Facebook has been criticised for being too slow to act, so the change in direction shows a clear proactive approach to tackling the matter of censorship. There is, of course, the question of what should be censored. Many news articles have written about images of women’s breasts, either through breast-feeding or surgery from cancer, that have been removed for being considered offensive or containing nudity, when a man’s chest does not incur the same response. It should perhaps be much clearer what content is going to be deleted, and fairer rules implemented for all.

As well as removing violent material, it is also important to remove content that contains child abuse or potentially illegal material. In Germany, there has been huge pressure for Facebook to be quicker and more accurate in their removal of posts sharing or inciting hate speech. They have also been called to cull ‘fake news’, with the threat of fines from German lawmakers if they can’t begin removing at least 70% of all offending posts within 24 hours.

In the UK, Theresa May also spoke in her recent political campaign of the need for additional censorship online, and the importance of policing the internet in the same rigorous and thorough way as we do our streets – especially in relation to the way in which social media platforms cooperate with the police in catching terrorists. It makes perfect sense given how long people are spending online, and how influential it can be in many people’s lives.

The greatest issue, perhaps, is with their decision to use Filipino workers to remove this material from the site. Despite the social media giant recording profits greater than £4.7 billion in 2015, the Daily Mail reports that they will only be paying their Filipino censorship team £1.81 an hour for gruelling shifts. With some of these workers, they also have limited English skills and are only given seconds to decide whether or not videos and images are too graphic, violent or illegal. The turnover rate is high, with many lasting less than 18 months.

Along with the question of how much should be censored and who gets to decide what is considered acceptable content, there is also the issue of this work being off-shored in this way. Should we be paying for highly-trained graduates? Perhaps given the emotional and psychological support they will need after spending their days seeing such graphic imagery, the answer is yes. This isn’t a straightforward, menial job – it requires skill, guidance and knowledge.