"If our work is so core to Facebook's business that you will ask us to risk our lives in the name of Facebook's community-and profit-are we not, in fact, the heart of your company?" In the past, Facebook has been criticized for relying too much on human contractors, whose work, by its nature, subjects them to content that can be horrifying to see, as well as for its AI not catching violent live-streams such as the New Zealand mosque shooting in March 2019. Shortly after they returned to the office, a Facebook content moderator reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
"While we believe in having an open internal dialogue, these discussions need to be honest", Facebook said in a statement.
The letter, addressed to Zuckerberg, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, (third-party moderation company) CPL CEO Anne Heraty, and Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, says that Facebook's artificial intelligence is not up to the task.
It is under pressure to keep its platform free of harmful and misleading content - and has faced extensive criticism over how it treats contractors, who say they perform a grueling job that takes a big toll on their mental health.
More than 200 of Facebook Inc.'s content moderators said their lives are being put at risk by the requirement to work in offices in global hot spots during the COVID-19 pandemic.More news: One million people receive experimental Chinese COVID-19 vaccine
"By outsourcing our jobs, Facebook implies that the 35,000 of us who work in moderation are somehow peripheral to social media", notes the letter.
Facebook claims that almost 95% of offending posts are picked up before they are flagged.
On Monday I published a piece showing the kinds of racist and misogynistic content aimed at Kamala Harris on the platform. In worst case scenarios, users whose content was removed and whose Facebook appeals have been exhausted, can still appeal to the "Oversight Board" to express their disagreement and request re-evaluation of the platform's decision.
What this letter suggests is that AI is simply not working as Facebook execs would hope.More news: Trump addresses virtual G-20 summit, heads out before session on pandemic
The moderators have also urged Facebook to turn the moderators to full-term employees.
The signatories of Wednesday's letter - a significant portion of which remained anonymous, according to the New York Times, for fear of reprisal - want the ability to work from home. Facebook also said that all moderators have access to healthcare and Facebook "has exceeded health guidance on keeping facilities safe for any in-office work". We waded through violence and child abuse for hours on end.
Now, on top of work that is psychologically toxic, holding onto the job means walking into a hot zone.
Accenture and CPL have so far not responded to the letter. It was organised by United Kingdom law firm Foxglove, which works on tech policy issues. And all these people have been working from home since the pandemic began.
Amazon has also come under fire for conditions in its warehouses, while outbreaks at firms from manufacturers to finance companies have stirred fears.More news: Britain hopes Christmas can be saved as COVID cases flatten
However, today, a couple of congresspeople-Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.)-sent a letter to Zuckerberg complaining that Facebook hasn't done enough in the wake of the election to explicitly label Donald Trump's baseless claims that the election was "stolen" from him as false.