The tension between Facebook and its content moderators rose Thursday after a group of contractors at an Austin, Texas, site posted an internal letter complaining that their dignity has been devalued, according to The Washington Post. One contractor was reportedly fired after posting YouTube videos of Bruce Springsteen, a rocker famous for advocating for the working person, to an internal company profile.
The letter demands better pay and changes to the nondisclosure agreements workers are required to sign to secure the jobs, said the Post, which reviewed the letter. The missive was posted to Workplace, an internal Facebook forum. The moderators worked for a subsidiary of Accenture that contracts with Facebook.
"Low pay, increased monitoring from managers, and strictly enforced production quotas have played a significant role in diminished morale in our workplace," the letter said, according to the Post. "People have been pushed to a point where they feel that their personhood, as well as their work, has been devalued because they are viewed as interchangeable parts in a machine." (CNET wasn't able to independently confirm the letter.)
Accenture spokeswoman Stacey Jones said the company doesn't comment on personnel matters.
The Post reported that an HR official told the fired employee that the song lyrics he shared raised safety concerns. "End of the day, factory whistle cries; men walk through these gates with death in their eyes; and you just better believe, boy somebody's gonna get hurt tonight," Springsteen sings in "Factory." The worker said it wasn't his intention to scare anyone and that he was a former musician, according to the Post.
"We don't ask for anyone to be removed from our account without good reason," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
The new stress marks the latest tension in the relationship between Facebook and the army of content moderators who review posts that might violate the social network's community standards. Content moderators, who are often exposed to violent videos and horrific acts that are posted to Facebook, have long complained about the conditions of their jobs, many of which have been subcontracted to other companies. Some moderators say they've experienced PTSD-like symptoms and that the work takes a toll on their mental health. Some former content moderators have filed a lawsuit against Facebook alleging the exposure to often violent and sordid images has caused psychological trauma. The role has been called "the worst job in technology."
Last month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told moderators in a Workplace post that the company was planning to raise wages for all contractors in the US and provide on-site counseling for moderators around the world, according to the Post story.
The fired contractor, who wasn't a content moderator, rebutted some of Sandberg's points, according to the Post. The contractor, who'd been in his position for three years, said he hadn't gotten the opportunity for a raise or promotion. He also complained about monitoring of worker activities, including visits to the toilet. The Post said he worked in a different subsidiary than the moderators.
In addition to the Springsteen music, the worker reportedly posted Know Your Rights by the Clash and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron, along with the hashtag #workersforworkers.
CNET's Queenie Wong contributed to this report.
Originally published June 27, 1:37 p.m. PT
Update, 2:16 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Accenture. Update, 2:35 p.m. PT: Adds more background.