TikTok’s African Moderators Are Calling Out The Platform For Its Cruel Treatment

TikTok’s African moderators are calling out the platform for forcing them to review hundreds of disturbing and graphic videos with little to no psychological help. 

According to a report by Business Insider, moderators spent hours reviewing graphic videos for less than $3 an hour. From viewing horrific child-abuse material to explicit videos of people dying by suicide, moderators undergo psychological distress because of their jobs. 

“The devil of this job is that you get sick slowly – without even noticing it. You think it’s not a big deal but it does affect you.”

Wisam, Facebook content moderator

The report investigates the stories of nine current and former moderators working alongside the video-sharing app in Morocco. Due to their non-disclosure agreements with TikTok, many used pseudonyms when speaking openly about their experiences to avoid legal action. 

Imani, 25, a content moderator for TikTok, shared the experience she faced during the first few hours of her shift as a moderator. She described watching a video of a young man throwing his cat into the air before stabbing it with a sword. Almost two years later, the video is engraved in her mind, and despite trying to distance herself from memory, it replays in her mind consistently. 

“I love cats. I’d never imagined I’d see such a scene in real life. It’s not a movie. It’s not a joke. It’s real,” Imani said in an interview with Insider. 

“I created a wall between my job and my life. I didn’t think about my job outside my shift. I had a baby to take care of,” she added. 

A former content moderator also shared his experience working as a Facebook content moderator. Although he was exposed to more explicit videos and posts due to Facebook’s more extensive user base, he worries that as TikTok continues to grow, the amount of graphic content on the platform may also increase. 

“The devil of this job is that you get sick slowly – without even noticing it,” said Wisam. “You think it’s not a big deal, but it does affect you.” 

Therapy costs an average of $30 a session, which is relatively expensive for an average outsourcing employee who makes $500 a month. In addition, a single session is equivalent to 18 hours of work for some moderators. 

A spokesperson for TikTok said that the company would cover the costs for moderators to meet with psychologists outside the company. Still, some moderators deny being offered any such service.

Despite TikTok using AI to help review content, the app still relies heavily on humans to check some of the most horrendous videos on the platform, but with little to no psychological support available, how long will this last?

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Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpamika is a tech reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.

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