Now that Facebook, YouTube, and their ilk employ some 100,000 “content moderators” who spend their days on the lookout for gore and porn, Adrian Chen suggests “it’s worth pondering just what the long-term psychological toll of this work can be.” He considers the case of “Rob,” a onetime moderator for YouTube:
For the first few months, Rob didn’t mind his job moderating videos at YouTube’s headquarters in San Bruno. … But as months dragged on, the rough stuff began to take a toll. The worst was the gore: brutal street fights, animal torture, suicide bombings, decapitations, and horrific traffic accidents. The Arab Spring was in full swing, and activists were using YouTube to show the world the government crackdowns that resulted. Moderators were instructed to leave such “newsworthy” videos up with a warning, even if they violated the content guidelines. But the close-ups of protesters’ corpses and street battles were tough for Rob and his coworkers to handle.
So were the videos that documented misery just for the sick thrill of it. “If someone was uploading animal abuse, a lot of the time it was the person who did it. He was proud of that,” Rob says. “And seeing it from the eyes of someone who was proud to do the fucked-up thing, rather than news reporting on the fucked-up thing – it just hurts you so much harder, for some reason. It just gives you a much darker view of humanity.”