Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Moderators

A truly heartbreaking film from Ciaran Cassidy and Adrian Chen:

In an office in India, a cadre of Internet moderators ensures that social media sites are not taken over by bots, scammers, and pornographers. The Moderators shows the humans behind content moderation, taking viewers into the training process that workers go through in order to become social media’s monitors.

This film is twenty minutes long, but it needs that kind of length to tell the story of the people who filter out the worst of the web. Many of us are so far removed from the sewage — both conceptually and physically — that we can forget how much of it has been cleaned for us from our feeds. Per one moderator in the film [sic]:

We have to maintain the speed of two thousand photos per hour, we have to moderate. 20% of that photo are vulgarity photos.

In a span of eight hours, a moderator will see over three thousand photos of various levels of offence, from using a middle finger in a profile photo, to child abuse and physical violence. And I doubt these moderators are limited to a standard forty-hour work week.

This film is, naturally, very difficult to watch. There are occasional not-safe-for-work moments throughout, and it gets particularly heavy at around 13:00. I totally get that some of you may not feel comfortable with it, but I imagine that even if you don’t see the film and just read what I’ve described here, you can empathize with how mentally-tasking a moderator’s job must be.