“Imagine going to work every day and at the start of your day, with your first cup of coffee, you sit down to glance at beheadings, children in the process of being raped, human bodies in various stages of decomposition, the living and dead results of domestic violence, hanging bodies of 10 year old boys accused of being gay, real-life snuff films and bloody dog fighting rings and their subsequent results.”
According to a Facebook moderator writing under a pseudonym, Joy Lyn, who is tasked with going through the dregs of reported and flagged social media posts, seeing these things on a daily basis isn’t close to the worst part of her job. “True cries for help come from FB users every day, all day long,” and when people frivolously flag posts online, it keeps people like Lyn from helping people with real problems.
The Telegraph UK reports that a large part of a Facebook moderator’s job is forwarding “acts in progress” to local authorities when proof of abuse, rape, and murder is found. Specific threats such as, “I’m going to kill X tomorrow” are taken very seriously, and are immediately sent to the police.
In her blog, Lyn recalls one particular instance where a 7 year old girl, too frightened to tell an authority, found out how to report a sexually explicit picture her uncle had taken of her. In her report, the girl added, “He says he’s coming over today at 2. Can you please help me, I don’t know what to do.”
The post was reported well before 2 pm, but it would not reach a moderator until 5 pm her time. The reason for this delay is that the girl’s cry for help was buried under thousands of nonsensical, petty reports generated by people who took offense to something. Lyn says that 80% of the manual reports that she gets are from people who are offended by something harmless. Lyn lists common complaints such as, “I saw this on my feed and I do not approve please take it off” and, “this is not true, my god would never let this happen.”
Were it not for the flood of whimsical reports, Lyn claims in her post, that “four hours ago I could have possibly prevented another one of her rapes. I could have had the police waiting for him when he arrived at her house.”
Lyn goes on to express the regret she feels about her missed opportunity to help the girl, adding, “your shabby reasons behind reporting s***t are not just offensive but harmful in many cases.”
Follow Patrick Kane on Twitter @PatVKane.