Google and its video sharing platform YouTube content review method is the same as all other technology giants, that is, pay outsourcing companies to undertake most of the review. The company, Accenture, operates Google’s largest content review site in the United States. At its office in Austin, Texas, content reviewers clean up the “cancer” on YouTube day and night.
Recently, U.S. investigative reporter Casey Newton interviewed dozens of Google content reviewers, revealing their daily work and the impact it brings. Newton’s main findings are as follows:
-Google ’s largest content review facility in the United States is located in Austin, Texas, where hundreds of content reviewers serve as “police” on YouTube;
-Google created a dedicated content review team for videos believed to contain violent extremism, and equipped them with dozens of low-paid immigrants from the Middle East. These people have an hourly salary of $ 18.50 (annual salary of about $ 37,000, 260,000 yuan), and have not been paid for two years;
-Austin’s content reviewers were asked to watch 5 hours of awful videos every day. Despite YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s promise last year to reduce their burden to four hours a day, he still failed to deliver on his promise;
-These content reviewers describe that after working for just six months, they developed anxiety, depression, night terrors and other serious mental health issues;
-Accenture managers often force employees to stay on the job and deny them vacations to review endless content;
-Google offers different medical service standards to full-time content reviewers and contractors, the former with several months of paid sick leave to address post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other issues. And the contractor has almost no paid sick leave;
——When employees apply for jobs, Google employees are usually not informed of potential mental health issues that may arise from content reviews. In addition, they often downplay the disturbing amount of content that reviewers actually have to look at;
-Google is experimenting with certain content reviewers to see if technical interventions (such as allowing employees to watch grayscale videos) can reduce emotional harm;
-Even with first-rate medical services and enviable benefits, content reviews can still cause Google employees to suffer from PTSD, chronic anxiety, and other long-term mental health issues.
Newton interviewed Peter, who is one of Accenture’s hundreds of content reviewers on the Austin website. YouTube groups Peter and his colleagues into content that they need to review, which is said to help content reviewers build up expertise around their policies. These content categories include hate and harassment, adult pornography, and more.
Peter’s work is known internally as the “VE team”, and VE stands for violent extremism. This is one of the toughest jobs that Alphabet has to face. Like all content censorship work that involves daily violence and abuse, this has serious and lasting effects on those who do it.
In the past year, Peter has witnessed his colleague faint at work due to pain, and the video he saw was so burdensome that he took two months of unpaid leave. Another colleague suffered from work-related anxiety and depression, had difficulty eating, and had to be hospitalized for acute vitamin deficiency.
Peter has been in the job for almost two years, and he is concerned that it will affect his mental health. The family has repeatedly urged Peter to resign. But he feared that he might not find another job with such a high salary: $ 18.5 an hour, or about $ 37,000 per year.
Peter noted that since he started working, he started losing hair and gained weight. He has a bad temper. As he drove past the building where he worked, even on the days of rest, his chest was aching. He said: “Every day you see someone beheaded or someone shot his girlfriend. After that, you will feel that the world is really crazy. It makes you feel uncomfortable and you feel nothing worth living Something. Why do we treat each other like this? “
Like many colleagues, Peter is a Middle Eastern immigrant and speaks seven languages, including Arabic. Accenture relies on Peter’s language skills to accurately identify hate speech and terrorist propaganda and remove it from YouTube.
Neither Peter nor his colleagues had a history of mental health issues, nor did they consider the potential impact of this new job on their psychology. Google doesn’t seem to think of this either. During the onboarding period, the company did not provide so-called “flexible” training for employees in this field, or developed emotional tools to help process a large number of disturbing texts, images, and videos.
For employees most affected by violence, witnessing dozens or more of murder scenes every day brings serious side effects and makes them increasingly anxious. The employees also talked about muscle cramps, eating pressure and rising rent pressure. And managers have refused to let them rest, fired them under various excuses, and changed their duty hours without warning.
Despite these effects, as governments around the world have put more demands on technology companies to regulate their services, tens of thousands of people have signed up for content reviews. Although some contractors are reassessing their ability to take on this job, the need for content reviewers appears to be expanding.
At the same time, we still lack a basic understanding of how this work affects practitioners. We know that some people on YouTube ’s violent extremist content review team, as well as people in similar jobs around the world, will develop PTSD and related diseases at work, but it ’s unclear how much of this impact is.