Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.55 12 May 2021


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A Facebook moderator has opened up about the horrific content she has to view on daily basis.

Isabella Plunkett today told an Oireachtas Committee that her team watches graphic videos up to eight hours a day to decide whether they breach the platform’s guidelines.

She said her mental health has deteriorated in the two years since she took the job – which required her to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) preventing her from telling her friends or family about anything she sees.

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She is calling for better terms and conditions for the social network’s moderators – as well as proper psychiatric care to help them deal with the things they see.

'I can see it in my dreams' - Facebook moderator calls for support dealing with horrific content

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

On The Hard Shoulder this evening, she opened up on the content she is forced to watch every day.

“It is very difficult to sit there for eight hours a day and look at that kind of challenging content,” she said.

“It is easy enough with the bullying and things like that but if you are sitting there and dealing with graphic violence all day, or suicide and self-injury ... we’re not used to seeing that and to be dealing with that for long periods of time, of course, it takes its toll.”

Ms Plunkett works for Covalen, one of the Facebook’s largest contractors in Ireland.

The 26-year-old said contractors essentially treated like “second-class citizens” and do not enjoy any of the perks afforded to the social network’s official staff.

She said they don’t have the option of working from home, are not offered a comparable level of pay and don’t enjoy the same benefits as Facebook employees.

Her main concern however, is the lack of psychiatric supports on offer, given the things her team sees every day.

“I didn’t expect it to have such adverse effects on my mental health,” she said.

“I wouldn’t have signed up or kept going knowing that it was going to take this kind of toll on me and I’m sure many other people can say the same.

“The support is not there. It is not sufficient. It is not what we require.”

'I see it in my dreams'

She said it was “very hard” to discuss her mental health at the committee this afternoon.

“I don’t actually speak about my mental health to even my closest family and friends,” she said.

“I usually do battle with these things myself; I am the sort of person who feels like they can take on all challenges.

“But when you’re in that position and especially when you sign an NDA saying you can’t speak to your friends and family about these things and you’re not receiving the appropriate support in work, what are you supposed to do?

“Are you supposed to sit in the dark? Are you supposed to be alone on these matters?

"I have been suffering with anxiety, I have been taking anti-depressants which I am not proud to say and I’m not ashamed to say – but of course it is hard to say.

“I have been on them for the last seven months. It is affecting my sleep; I can see the content in my dreams. I am having very lucid dreams with the content and it is difficult.”

Flashbacks

She said it is very hard not to bring your work home with you.

“Naturally, you’re going to see things that are going to kind of stay in your mind,” she said.

“It could be from a couple of days before, it could be from that day; you could be walking around, having your cup of tea and it hits you all of a sudden – ‘Oh my God, I’m remembering that horrible thing I saw yesterday.”

“So yeah, it is challenging. It’s very, very challenging and I think the hardest part for me is being able to separate the work and life balance – which shouldn’t be the case.”

Ms Plunkett said she was speaking out in the hope of winning better supports for her colleagues.

“We all want some change,” she said. “We’re not here to bash the company or cause issues. We’re here for fair treatment and to be treated the same as Facebook employees.”

You can listen back here:

'I can see it in my dreams' - Facebook moderator calls for support dealing with horrific content

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    


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