- Content moderators contracted to work for Facebook have been told they will all have to return to their offices in Austin, Texas on October 12.
- Facebook’s full-time salaried employees are being allowed to work from home until at least July 2021.
- A Facebook spokesperson told The Verge a lot of the work done by the moderators “involves work streams that can’t be done from home.”
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Contracted Facebook moderators have been told they have to return to the office, The Verge reports.
Employees for Accenture, the firm contracted by Facebook to sift through and moderate the content that appears on its platform, were told in an all-hands meeting on Thursday that they will be obligated to return to their offices Austin, Texas from October 12.
Accenture workers present at the meeting told The Verge they were not given a reason why they have to return to the office, and the company did not take questions. The company did say the return would not be staggered, and that high-risk employees would be able to make alternative arrangements.
“We [are] expected to keep our regular shifts, even though this will lead to everyone arriving at the office at the same time and creating a bottleneck. We were told in a separate town hall on Monday that they would be returning ‘only essential employees’ to the office ‘slowly,’ and their message today directly contradicts that,” one contractor told The Verge. Although the Verge’s report focused on the Austin office, one source said employees in California have also been instructed to return to work.
According to The Verge, moderation work for tech giants including Facebook and YouTube has hit some snags being done remotely, as sensitive user data sometimes has to be handled on specialized secure computers — which are in the physical offices. “A lot of the work done by the Accenture Austin team involves work streams that can’t be done from home,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge.
Facebook’s contracted workers, like its salaried employees, have been working from home since March. Facebook has told its full-time employees they will be able to work from home until at least July 2021.
“We are gradually returning people to client offices in cases where there is a critical business reason to do so,” an Accenture spokesperson told The Verge. “We prioritize the safety and well-being of our people, and only return people to offices when we are comfortable that the right measures and protocols are in place, properly evaluated for each country or local situation.”
Disparities in the benefits between Facebook’s employees and its contracted workforce have been an issue in the past. A investigation from The Verge’s Casey Newton in February 2019 claimed moderators working for another Facebook contract firm (Cognizant, which is no longer working for Facebook) were earning $28,800 while Facebook’s median salary was $240,000.
Facebook moderators have also reported little mental health support to help them cope with the reams of graphic and disturbing images they are required to view every day to decide what should and shouldn’t stay on the platform. In May, Facebook reached a settlement of $52 million to a group of moderators who developed PTSD symptoms.