Is Social Media Simply Too Sick and Depraved To Continue?
By Kalev Leetaru
The Verge’s latest expose on the inhuman working conditions of Facebook’s content moderators sheds light once again on the depravity of the human condition and the indescribable horrors that people all across the world share on social media. Has social media become so dark as to be beyond hope?
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The working conditions outlined in the Verge article are absolutely horrific, bordering on modern day coal miners. Yet they exist because of the horrors that people choose to share on Facebook each and every day.
The content those moderators are forced to encounter each day is nothing short of indescribable. Animals tortured to death on camera, young children being filmed as they are cut open and their organs harvested while still alive and screaming in agony, dogs with firecrackers detonated in their mouths, torture, terrorism, genocide, young children sold into slavery or raped while their attackers live-stream it laughing before brutally and graphically murdering them – the things moderators encounter each day are breathtaking in their horror and inhumanity.
How is it that such content can come from human beings?
It is not just one or two people worldwide sharing this content – if it were, those few users could simply be banned from the platform and the digital world would go on happily without them. Instead, the sheer volume of material reviewed each day by content moderators reminds us just how much hate and horror and depravity there really is in our world.
The Web did not usher in an era of horror. It merely globalized its visibility and monetized it.
Today Facebook makes a handsome profit from terrorism, rape, torture, genocide, slavery, animal cruelty, human trafficking, organ harvesting, hate speech, threats of violence and other horrific content.
Every live-streamed terror attack, every videotaped rape, every image gallery of human trafficking, every image of a tortured animal makes very real money for Facebook that enriches its stockholders and executives.
Its employees earn a portion of their paychecks from supporting the absolute most depraved and inhuman behavior on earth. Every single Facebook worker owes some portion of their pay to the most indescribable horrors on earth.
Rape, torture, terrorism, genocide, slavery and other activities are profitable businesses for Facebook. Every rape video that is published to the platform not only revictimizes that individual globally but earns very real money for Facebook.
A murder may end a life but the video and imagery of it earns Facebook revenue forever.
A child’s life may be forever changed by being sold into slavery but Facebook earns a profit from their sale.
A terror attack may terrorize society but it is merely money in Facebook’s pocket.
Facebook represents capitalism at its best and its worst. Its best because it is able to extract revenue from the world’s most profitable horrors and its worst because that profit comes on the back of the very worst of human nature.
Through Facebook, the world’s consumer brands find their names and likenesses appearing alongside rape, torture, genocide and every other imaginable horror.
Time and again when asked whether it would refund the revenue it earns from these activities, Facebook has declined to comment. It would be quite trivial for Facebook to institute a policy that all content it removes for policy violations should have their ad revenue refunded, but the company remains silent on whether it would even consider such a penalty on itself.
Asked again for this article whether it would consider refunding the money it earns from such content, including allowable content like animal cruelty (which the company issued a statement confirming it permits under some circumstances), the company again remained silent.
Facebook offers a medium that allows publication and global distribution of the worst of society’s darkest side. This raises the question of whether social media has simply become too sick and depraved to continue?
Putting this all together, in its rush to connect the world, Facebook and its social brethren gave little thought to the horrors to which their platforms might be put. The myriad safeguards and design principles that could have been built into their platforms from the beginning to deter their misuse were cast aside in the single-minded pursuit of profit at all costs. Even today, asked whether it would refund the revenue it earns from the worst of society’s depravity, the company steadfastly remains silent.
In light of all of this, I asked Facebook whether it still believes that the good it offers in connecting the world still outweighs the harm it does to society in giving voice to society’s darkest horrors.
The company’s answer?