NEARLY 1,500 MILES from the Menlo Park headquarters of Facebook, at a company outpost in Austin, Texas, moderators toil around the clock to screen and scrub some the most gruesome, hateful, and heinous posts that make their way onto the social network and its photo-sharing subsidiary, Instagram. They are required to view as many as 800 pieces of disturbing content in a single shift, and routinely turn to on-site counselors to help cope with the procession of stomach-turning images, videos, and text. But some members of this invisible army have complained, in a statement widely circulated within Facebook, that the outsourcing giant that officially employs them, Accenture, has repeatedly attempted to violate the confidentiality of these therapy sessions.
The moderators work from within a special section for outsourced staffers at Facebook Austin. The Texas outpost is designed to mimic the look and feel of the company’s famously opulent Silicon Valley digs, but Accenture workers say they’re reminded daily of their secondary status and denied perks, prestige, and basic respect. This second-class tier at Facebook, a sort of international shadow workforce, has been well documented in the media, from Manila to Arizona, and it’s not clear whether the company has done anything to address it beyond issuing defensive PR statements. Moderators in Austin say their job is a brutalizing slog and that Facebook remains largely indifferent to their struggles. Access to on-site counseling is one of the few bright points for this workforce.