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Varadkar tells Facebook moderators he will contact social media giant on their behalf

Moderators have been pushing for mental health supports and to be allowed work from home during the pandemic.

Image: PA

IN A MEETING with independent contractors who carry out content moderation for Facebook, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told the workers he will contact the social media giant to raise concerns about their working conditions.

Facebook moderators are tasked with reviewing and removing violent and graphic content from the platform. They have been pushing to be given the same right to work from home as other Facebook employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The social media firm’s European headquarters are in Dublin and it outsources content moderation to Covalen, a company based in Sandyford.

Employees of the company have raised a range of concerns about their working conditions including poor pay, inadequate mental health support and not being allowed work from home despite Ireland’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Covalen and Facebook both dispute the workers’ claims.

The moderators and the legal team that represents them say the meeting with Varadkar was the first meeting in any country between serving moderators and a government minister.

“We had a very important meeting with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar where we raised concerns about our safety within the workplace, our health care, and the separation of treatments between full-time Facebook employees and outsourced employees,” Ibrahim Halawa, one of the moderators, said in a press conference following the meeting.

The moderators have been working with Foxglove Legal, a technology justice advocacy group.

The group’s co-founder Cori Crider said: “Content moderators are a workforce of thousands all over the world and there are over 1,000 content moderators in Ireland.

Facebook as a platform simply couldn’t exist without this workforce and they’re not directly employed by Facebook, but often outsourced, underpaid and made to sign very restrictive non-disclosure agreements.

“They can’t tell their families that they moderate content on Facebook, they’re subject to hours of toxic material without proper or meaningful mental health support.”

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Halawa said Varadkar agreed to write to Facebook and address the moderators’ concerns about mental health supports, working conditions and working from home during level five Covid-19 restrictions.

After the meeting Varadkar said the internet content moderators perform “really important work to protect us all” and that he will be following up on some of the issues they mentioned.

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly, who raised the moderators’ working conditions in the Dáil, said that Facebook should employ them directly.

“There are people in Facebook who do similar work, they’re allowed work from home, they have a lot more in terms of health and safety, they’re paid a lot more, they have a lot more in terms of mental health supports and that’s what’s lacking,” she told TheJournal.ie.

The Dublin Fingal TD called on the government to urge Facebook to bring the moderators into direct employment or ensure that they have adequate mental health supports and better working conditions.

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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