TikTok’s exponential growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has brought about increased demand for TikTok content moderators. But it’s not all scrolling and reporting.
- Content moderators in Africa have shared their experiences of viewing graphic videos, leading to long-lasting psychological impacts.
- They face unattainable targets and constant surveillance, leading to overwhelming stress.
- Those in less privileged countries often prioritize financial stability over voicing workplace concerns.
To the Boomers’, and perhaps the Millennials’, dismay, TikTok, the short-form video entertainment platform, has witnessed exponential growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. As a result, the demand for content moderation has increased, leading to the expansion of TikTok’s moderation workforce.
However, that job is not for the faint of hearts as the TikTok content moderators are responsible for reviewing graphic and disturbing videos. Add to that the distressing realities and inadequate protection, and you get a recipe for psychological damage.
What about AI? Well, unfortunately, the technology struggles with comprehending non-English languages effectively, making human moderators indispensable for accurate content review.
According to SignHouse’s TikTok Users and Growth Statistics, in 2021, there were around 981,000 videos being posted every hour. And knowing human nature, not all of these are safe-to-view content either.
In a 2022 Business Insider piece, TikTok content moderators in Africa shared their traumatic experiences of viewing graphic videos, including acts of animal cruelty and suicides. These haunting images and videos leave a lasting impact on the moderators’ psychological well-being, causing them to struggle with the distressing content they encounter. One former content moderator, Imani, vividly recalls the shock of witnessing a young man impale a cat on a sword. The trauma lingers, affecting their personal lives long after the end of their shifts. In my line of work, I happen sometimes on unsavory things, to put it mildly, and it haunts me for a while. I cannot begin to imagine spending my 9-5 exclusively sifting through the worst that humanity has to offer.
Inhumane Working Conditions
A disturbing trend emerges as TikTok content moderators have recounted their experiences of unattainable metrics, constant surveillance, and a lack of necessary breaks. Unrealistic targets and near-impossible goals leave moderators feeling overwhelmed and distressed. In Morocco, moderators receive significantly fewer breaks compared to their counterparts in the United States, further exacerbating their mental and emotional strain. The inconsistent scheduling of shifts adds to the hardships faced by these individuals, making it difficult to maintain a work-life balance and care for their families. They get paid less than $3 an hour. Need I say more? Actually, yes, I do. Would spend a full workday subjecting yourself to the realities of the human’s dark side for a measly $3?
Not to mention the stigma surrounding mental health in the MENA region discourages moderators from seeking professional help, while the cost and limited availability of therapy present additional barriers to accessing the care they desperately need.
Go Ahead, Talk.
Nobody wants to hear but I have to say it: it is easy to say that people need to speak up and speak out, but it is a whole different discussion for them to actually do so. In less privileged countries, we do what we need to do to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. Even if we, unfortunately, need to keep our heads lowered and pretend we can’t see and hear evil. The secretive culture of outsourcing companies and their close political ties make it difficult for moderators to voice their concerns or take legal action against workplace violations.
We can all agree that content moderators are the unsung heroes of the web, tirelessly working to ensure user safety and maintain the integrity of platforms like TikTok. So, why are those living in less privileged regions not protected as well as others are?
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