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Facebook and Cognizant get smeared by whistleblowers who exposed an office of horrors with stories of death, theft and dirt

Prabhjote Gill | Business Insider India | Jun 20, 2019, 07.35PM IST
  • Facebook moderators broke their non disclosure agreements (NDAs) disclosing the disturbing state of affairs to the Verge.
  • The employees shared details of the unhygienic conditions, sexual harassment and fights breaking out in the offices.
  • Cognizant told Business Insider India, "Cognizant works hard to ensure a safe, clean and supportive work environment for all of our associates."
Nail clippings on the desk, a single bathroom in the entire office that's smeared with feces and fights breaking out between employees — this is the state of affairs at the worst performing Facebook moderation site in North America operated by the professional services firm Cognizant.

This is not the worst the employees face -- they are already burdened with continuously watching and filtering some of the worst content that is uploaded on the site, as its moderation guidelines change on a daily basis.

Theft and harassment

The moderators have broken their non-disclosure agreements (NDA) to talk about the disturbing state of affairs to the Verge. They disclosed how one man passed away at his desk during the job, and two others filed sexual harassment cases. Theft too is a common at an office which is unhygienic to say the least.

One moderator described, to the Verge, how he had to watch a video of two teenagers beating up an iguana over and over again because, as per Facebook's policies, it couldn't remove the content so that the authorities could catch the perpetrators. Instead, the video continued to repeat and there was no action taken by law enforcement.

The stock of Cognizant, which is listed on Wall Street, fell 2% midday on June 19 before recovering slightly.

Business Insider's queries to Facebook on the story remain unanswered. The story will be updated with the response, if any.

Who's to blame?

Facebook lofty moderation guidelines have been called into question before as well by the New York Times expose on the company's moderation training documents. And though it never kept a close eye on its partners, the office is ultimately operated by Cognizant.

The company spokesperson told Business Insider India, "Cognizant strives to create a safe and empowering workplace for its employees around the world. Like any large employer, Cognizant routeinly and professionally responds to and addresses general world place and personnel issues in its facilities."

They add, "Our Tampa facility is no different. Cognizant works hard to ensure a safe, clean and supportive work environment for all of our associates."

Despite this assertion, employees at the Tampa facility told Verge that the company lost no opportunity to make the workers feel that they were disposable. They were even lured from less intensive jobs with promises of bigger paychecks and regular schedules that were never delivered.

Stress and trauma

The extent of the problem is highlighted by the fact that the Facebook moderation facility in Florida has never consistently hit the 98% accuracy required by its own policies. It normally averages out at around 92%, according to documents seen by the Verge.

Background checks are also reportedly lax with employees who have a history of depression and anxiety, looking over the worst that Facebook has to offer. Even without any prior issues, the less than ideal conditions of the workplace along with the pressure of watching Facebook content that led employees to act out in paranoia. Some are even suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the Verge reported.

Cognizant is not the only Facebook contractor to come under fire of sub-optimal working conditions. Moderators at Accenture too also complained about inadequate counseling support and excessive micromanagement using their access to Facebook Workplace — an internal communications system at Facebook.

See also:
Facebook is reportedly bringing in local IT firms to moderate fake news in India

Why Facebook's new ‘one strike' policy isn't enough to address its moderation problems
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