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Social media companies failing to protect content moderators from psychological damage - Louise O'Reilly TD

11 November, 2020 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson Enterprise, Trade, Employment and Workers Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, has called on the Tánaiste and the government to meet with content moderators working for social media companies who have spoken about the serious psychological damage sustained by workers who have to constantly review explicit material being uploaded. 

 Debating with the Tánaiste in the Dáil last night, Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Tánaiste, content moderators are a new job, a new way of working. They are responsible for assessing user-generated content submitted to online platforms.

“Put simply, these workers have to look at videos and other content which users of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other online platforms, upload to see if it complies with their 'standards'.

“And they’re not looking out to flag funny videos and clips which we all enjoy and make us laugh.

“They are looking at videos of child abuse, of extreme violence, videos of sexual abuse, videos of people being beheaded, beaten, and murdered, and other explicit content.

“Many of these social media companies are very aware of the psychological damage this work causes; as a result, they have tried to outsource all content moderation jobs and refuse to recognise Trade Union recognition amongst workers.

“The net result is that some of these workers are exposed to unrelenting streams of extremely disturbing and graphic content for hours on end each day for poor pay and conditions.

“We’ve been though similar situations throughout the decades – children being sent to clean chimney’s, women and children losing arms in cotton mills, men being sent to their deaths down coal mines, workers getting sick due to exposure to harmful chemicals, and so on. 

“As work practices change so do the workplace dangers. Unfortunately, in this state, workers and Trade Unions have often been left to carry the fight for better and safer working conditions alone.

“This cannot be allowed happen here – the government needs to step in and meet with the workers, social media companies, and Trade Unions, with a view to addressing these problems, protecting the workers from psychological damage, guaranteeing decent pay and conditions, and legislating to ensure workers are not exploited or abused.

“I am glad that the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment has agreed to meet with the workers and their representatives, and Sinn Féin will be sure to keep him to this commitment.” 

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