Episode 7: Chief Justice Zuckerberg

In the seventh episode of The Latest, we explore Facebook’s plans to form its own Supreme Court, which will likely rule it’s a crime to forget someone’s birthday. Eli Moore, a micro-economist who leads insights and analytics for The Coca-Cola Company, joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 7: Chief Justice Zuckerberg


Those voices are discussing Facebook’s new Oversight Board, an independent governing body meant to oversee content moderation on the social media network. Even though nobody likes your posts, at least someone might be reading them. 

Mark Zuckerberg has said that it’s essentially Facebook’s version of the Supreme Court, which makes sense: they’re two organizations that excel at boosting people who lost the popular vote. 

But content moderators have a tough job. Anyone who’s used the site already knows that scrolling through a neverending feed of ugly families, self-congratulation, and memes that highlight just how unique you and the twenty-thousand other people who shared the exact same, not-quite-accurate movie quote, letterboxed around a poorly pixelated screenshot in white, all-caps, bold Impact on a black background, can be, let’s say, tiring.

But in an exposé about what it’s like to be a Facebook moderator, contractors revealed their non-stop exposure to hate speech, extreme pornography, and graphic violence. I guess they’re making snuff films in Farmville.

Moderators are forced to watch at least 30 seconds of each questionable video, which is about the length of the car commercial you can’t skip before the thing you wanted to watch on YouTube begins to play.

A moderator recounted one video posted to the social network, whose origins were in ranking whether or not random Ivy League college students were attractive, that depicted a man being murdered as he was stabbed dozens of times before the camera as he screamed and begged for his life. Someone must have reported the post as “inappropriate.” 

For this pleasure, for which contractors receive a cool fifteen dollars an hour, like a barista, many have begun exhibiting PTSD-like symptoms and panic attacks. Others begin to believe the hate speech and fake news they’re supposed to be moderating, and get pushed towards the far right. Some even become “addicted” to the graphic content, hoarding it for their own personal collection. They must not know Lars von Trier is on Netflix.

Facebook’s “Supreme Court” is meant to assuage these fears by, essentially, when necessary, moderating the moderators. You know, the moderators hired to moderate content so questionable, offensive, or tasteless, that they themselves begin to question whether it’s questionable.

It seems like they’re putting a lot of work into solving a problem that, to me, has a pretty easy solution: stop using Facebook. Unless you’re promoting a podcast.