Facebook moderators call for extended remote work, hazard pay amid COVID-19

In an open letter, over 200 content moderators demand that Facebook change some policies in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
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Erin Carson
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More than 200 Facebook content moderators are taking issue with having to return to work in offices amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In an open letter published Wednesday, moderators say they're being "forced" back into the office unless they have a doctor's note addressing their personal risk of catching COVID-19. 

"Holding onto the job means walking into a hot zone," reads the letter, which was published through UK-based tech accountability group Foxglove. The letter also cites the psychological toll of a job that includes screening for graphic content.

Facebook says it has about 15,000 content moderators around the world. In May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said some employees would be able to work from home permanently.

"We appreciate the valuable work content reviewers do and we prioritize their health and safety," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "The majority of these 15,000 global content reviewers have been working from home and will continue to do so for the duration of the pandemic. All of them have access to health care and confidential wellbeing resources from their first day of employment, and Facebook has exceeded health guidance on keeping facilities safe for any in-office work."

In the letter, moderators also ask for hazard pay. "Moderators who are working in the office on high-risk material (eg, child abuse) should be paid hazard pay of 1.5x their usual wage," reads the letter. They're also asking for additional health care and psychiatric care.