What Cannot Be Unseen

 

A few days ago, fellow member @unsk wrote about California’s threat to the sanctity of the confessional in the Catholic Church. As an observation, I replied:

I don’t think many people appreciate the burdens the church puts on its priesthood. The confessional is an awful weight. The secrets some people carry are enough to push one to a breaking point and I cannot fathom knowing the secrets of an entire congregation.

To look out from the pulpit and to see adulterers, abusers, addicts, and worse and all the while greeting them as if nothing is wrong – and being absolutely handcuffed in responding to it.

No wonder some priests drink.

This morning, The Verge published an article about the folks working at Cognizant, a company that provides moderators for Facebook content. If priests deserve respect for the things they’ve heard, these people deserve sainthood for the things that they’ve seen.

We worry about Facebook silencing conservative voices. This is the least of that company’s worries. Among the innocuous postings of family reunions, Little League schedules and political rants are some of the vilest things imaginable. Cruelty to children, cruelty to animals, cruelty to adults — and all of it recorded by cell phone and posted with a sick and twisted pride. The videos get reported and some poor schmoe has to watch it, and by Facebook rules, for at least 15 seconds.

While the article serves mostly to condemn the overall working conditions at Cognizant and their string of dog-and-pony shows for Facebook management, it’s the overwhelming nature of the work that’s most disturbing. For $15 an hour, these people are watching the worst mankind has to offer. Videos are deleted and reposted by someone else, again and again. But even after they’ve been permanently dealt with, they still run forever in the minds of the moderators. Walking into a room full of internet work stations has become their equivalent of going to war, but without the ability to take out the bad guys.

At this point, the digital genie can’t be put back in the bottle, but it needs to be crippled a bit. The question remains as to how to accomplish that. Meanwhile, Facebook needs to take control of its moderation problem. And take care of their moderators.

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There are 18 comments.

  1. The Great Adventure! Member

    For a slightly different perspective on what the clergy has to deal with…

    Years ago my wife was going to work at the church that we attended as the children’s pastor. The head pastor at that point told her that his biggest concern was how I would deal with it. Me? Why me? I wasn’t the one who was going to be working with the munchkins, so why would I have any difficulty in dealing with it?

    He was spot on. I know my wife didn’t tell me all that went on, but in a church of about 500 people I learned way more than I ever wanted to know. What was worse was that our entire social circle dissolved – all of our friends just assumed that we were now hanging out with all of the other church staff or something. We weren’t. We ended up developing an entirely new set of friends that focused more on the community we lived in than those from the church. In the long run that was a good thing, but at the time it was quite difficult.

    I agree on the Cognizant/Facebook illustration. It’s hard to imagine a nastier job.

    • #1
    • June 19, 2019, at 8:48 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  2. James Lileks Contributor

    The article about what the moderators had to see gave me second-hand PTSD. Good Lord. You start out thinking “surely there aren’t that many sick people displaying their sociopathy in public” and end up wishing Judge Dredd worked for Facebook.

    • #2
    • June 19, 2019, at 10:49 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    James LileksThe article about what the moderators had to see gave me second-hand PTSD.

    And we worry about moderating petty insults. This place is paradise by comparison.

    • #3
    • June 19, 2019, at 10:53 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  4. Front Seat Cat Member

    It seems a mere symptom of a sick and depraved world where everything electronic is used and worshiped to glorify or harm people (cannot tell you how many people were taking selfies at the beach the other day), yet the counter-measures of this kind of behavior are scorned – faith, respect, and responsibility. Anything goes – and you are right – I cannot imagine what the confessional holds nowadays. The good news is if someone is in there confessing, he’s in the right place.

    • #4
    • June 19, 2019, at 11:41 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. tigerlily Member

    Boy, what a horrible job!

    • #5
    • June 19, 2019, at 1:42 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Mike Hubbard Member

    Here’s a link to the story.

    Trigger warning, etc. Tangential thought: if this is how Facebook takes care of its moderators, then who in their right mind would trust them with crypto-currency?

    • #6
    • June 19, 2019, at 1:49 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Django Member

    When I was at the Administrative Office of Courts for a couple years, I shared an office building with social service workers. Same horror stories there as well, usually child abuse. I wish they hadn’t showed me the documentation. It was bad enough to hear about it. 

    • #7
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:00 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  8. Skyler Coolidge

    They get paid for it. Yawn. I didn’t ask them to moderate facebook. If Zuckerburg wants to take on that onus, good for him and good for the people who get to earn a living doing it.

    I’m wondering what legal process allows them to view child porn for 15 seconds each without being prosecuted.

    • #8
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:28 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Blondie Thatcher

    EJHill (View Comment):

    James Lileks: The article about what the moderators had to see gave me second-hand PTSD.

    And we worry about moderating petty insults. This place is paradise by comparison.

    It is worth the price of admission, in my opinion. 

    • #9
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:42 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Front Seat Cat Member

    Django (View Comment):

    When I was at the Administrative Office of Courts for a couple years, I shared an office building with social service workers. Same horror stories there as well, usually child abuse. I wish they hadn’t showed me the documentation. It was bad enough to hear about it.

    My sister is in child support enforcement – they have been trained on how to react in a terrorist situation, the building has had to be evacuated numerous times, they ‘ve been trained to recognize gang relationships – not just local, but blood and cript symbols, as this little mountain town in Maryland is a mid-point between LA and NY, and lately on how to spot human trafficking…..she’s been threatened, screamed at, hung up on, and has had to have a deputy accompany to and from her car. This is a little po-dunk town – not a major city……

    • #10
    • June 19, 2019, at 5:21 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. philo Member

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment): …little po-dunk town…

    Bonus points for best word of the day. I’ll double it if you can slip “bohunk” into the conversation too.

    • #11
    • June 19, 2019, at 5:54 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  12. kedavis Member

    If there were a credible argument that seeing all the REAL garbage is what makes the “moderators” somehow extra-sensitive to “conservative hate” then maybe I could be sympathetic. But if anything the garbage on the left that they ignore, is where the REAL hate spews from.

    • #12
    • June 20, 2019, at 2:55 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Post author

    kedavis: But if anything the garbage on the left that they ignore, is where the REAL hate spews from.

    It wasn’t dealt with in the article but my sense would be that the folks working for the likes of Cognizant are not making the decisions on political content. That’s made farther up the food chain. The people at Facebook HQ are aware of the garbage the people at Cognizant at dealing with. In fact, that’s why those jobs even exist. They want those poor bastards to deal with the out-and-out cruelty while they go hunting for the dad who said something nice about Ben Shapiro.

    • #13
    • June 20, 2019, at 8:24 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. Old Bathos Member

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    The article about what the moderators had to see gave me second-hand PTSD. Good Lord. You start out thinking “surely there aren’t that many sick people displaying their sociopathy in public” and end up wishing Judge Dredd worked for Facebook.

    I have always wished for a foolproof source identification algorithm for hackers, malware makers and violent pervert content providers and that the algorithm could also launch drone strikes. Before I even see the invitation from former minister Dr. Rupert Olglababa to host funds in my checking account, a drone would be on the way. The second a dog murder is posted, some trailer in Laccoochee FL is already targeted. And entire blocks in Romania could be vaporized along with hard drives full of Bitcoin triggered by banks of Windows 95 PCs cranking out malware.

    • #14
    • June 20, 2019, at 10:35 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. kedavis Member

    I’ve long thought that places like Romania could just be removed from the internet entirely, without any important loss.

    • #15
    • June 24, 2019, at 4:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. The Reticulator Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I’ve long thought that places like Romania could just be removed from the internet entirely, without any important loss.

    I disagree. That would make bicycle touring more complicated there.

    • #16
    • June 24, 2019, at 7:54 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. kedavis Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I’ve long thought that places like Romania could just be removed from the internet entirely, without any important loss.

    I disagree. That would make bicycle touring more complicated there.

    Why because of no GPS? GPS is not the internet.

    • #17
    • June 24, 2019, at 11:46 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. The Reticulator Member

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I’ve long thought that places like Romania could just be removed from the internet entirely, without any important loss.

    I disagree. That would make bicycle touring more complicated there.

    Why because of no GPS? GPS is not the internet.

    I use GPS in combination with the internet. For example, as on today’s ride I take breaks and check in on Ricochet. Also, I look for places to eat, or send a text and dropped pin to Mrs R to let her know where I am. I also use some internet maps. 

    • #18
    • June 25, 2019, at 6:47 PM PDT
    • Like