The professional service company Cognizant will leave the content moderation business after two Verge investigations of working conditions on websites dedicated to Facebook, the companies said today. Cognizant had hired thousands of moderators around the world to remove hate speech, terrorism and other inappropriate content from platforms, including Facebook, Google and Twitter.
"We have determined that some content work in our Digital Operations practice is not in line with our strategic vision for the company, and we intend to leave this work over time," the company told The Verge in a statement. "This work is largely focused on determining whether specific content violates client standards ̵[ads1]1; and may involve critical materials."
Cognizant will fulfill its remaining contracts, but will discharge its obligations by 2020, the company says.
In February Verge published a survey of working conditions at the company's location in Phoenix. On-site moderators described the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress syndrome after being subjected to a daily attack of graphic and disturbing images. Others said they had come to embrace views from the edge after watching videos of conspiracy theories on a regular basis. Several employees reported in fear of their safety after being threatened by colleagues.
A June follow-up report focused on a Web site in Tampa, FL, where moderators broke the non-disclosure agreement to describe a pattern of leadership mistreatment. They described working in offices that were often dirty and where cases of sexual harassment had led to several complaints being filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Phoenix and Tampa websites will both close after March 1, Facebook told The Verge in a statement. "Cognizant and Facebook are committed to a smooth transition during this period of change," a Facebook spokesman said.
Cognizant said that people who lose their jobs will be offered "retention bonuses, end-of-life packages and the opportunity to participate in various reskilling programs." It is unclear whether they will be offered other jobs within Cognizant.
Cognizant "represents a small percentage of Facebook's global content crawl efforts," the spokesman said. Facebook said it would increase the number of moderators it has worked on on a Texas-run website run by Genpact.
"One of the reasons we partner with partners is to be able to make adjustments quickly to ensure that Facebook stays safe for people," the spokesman said. "Cognizant's content reviewers have played a valuable role in keeping our platforms safe for people around the world, and we thank them for the work they have done and continue to do."