What I learned from three months of Content Moderation for Facebook in Berlin

Burcu Gültekin Punsmann :

Germany has become one of Facebook’s most important hubs for content moderation – also fueled by a controversial new law that requires social media companies to effectively remove hate speech and violence. In Berlin and Essen more than 1000 people work as Facebook Content Moderators, most of them employed by the outsourcing company Arvato, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, one of Germany’s most powerful companies. Yet the work and the rules of content moderation is done in secrecy. In a year-long investigation, our reporters Hannes Grassegger and Till Krause spoke to dozens of current and former content moderators working for Facebook in Germany and have written several award-winning reports (»Inside Facebook«) that made the working conditions and deletion rules (»The secret rules of Facebook«) of Facebook public. Recently they have been contacted by Burcu Gültekin Punsmann, a former employee who, for the first time, gives a personal account of her work as a content moderator. We have slightly shortened and edited her piece for clarity.

As a new comer to Berlin in July 2017, I found myself in a job in content moderation at Arvato. Curiosity has a been a main driver. I accepted the very unappealing job offer and entered into a world I haven’t suspected the existence of. I was recruited as an outsourced reviewer and became one of the thousands of Facebook Community Operations team members around the world working in some 40 languages. Berlin, draining well-educated multilingual cheap labor from all over the world, has recently developed, as I would learn, as new center for Facebook content moderation, as the German government toughened the legislation against hate speech.

I quit the job after a three-month period. I feel the need today to take time to reflect on this very intense professional and personal experience. This is mainly an exercise of self-reflection and learning. I consider it as well as a way to dissociate myself from the very violent content I have been handling on a daily basis. I wish through my account to add transparency and to contribute to discussions on content moderation practices. I don’t intend to violate the employee non-disclosure agreement I signed. I will not dig into the polices developed by Facebook. Through my relatively short work experience, I learned that these policies are constantly re-evaluated, highly dynamic and reactive. I couldn’t perceive well enough, from my vintage point, the factors that impact on these sets of policies.