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Accenture In Spotlight As Facebook Moderators Protest COVID Work Conditions

‘The current crisis highlights that at the core of Facebook’s business lies a deep hypocrisy. By outsourcing our jobs, Facebook implies that the 35,000 of us who work in moderation are somehow peripheral to social media. Yet we are so integral to Facebook’s viability that we must risk our lives to come into work,’ a group of Facebook content moderators wrote.

Global solution provider Accenture and business outsourcing provider CPL were called out Wednesday in an open letter by employees who are protesting working conditions related to their efforts to moderate social media content for Facebook.

The letter, signed openly by 61 content moderators and anonymously by an additional 171 moderators, was addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet, and CPL CEO Anne Heraty.

In the Wednesday letter, the moderators said they faced “intense pressure to keep Facebook free of hate and disinformation.”

They also said they had been allowed to work from home for months because of the risks caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, but have now been forced to move back to the office.

“Moderators who secure a doctors’ note about a personal COVID risk have been excused from attending in person. Moderators with vulnerable relatives, who might die were they to contract COVID from us, have not,” they wrote.

It is not the first time that Facebook has had issues working with outsourcing companies for its content moderation.

[Related: Cognizant Laying Off 6,000 As It Exits Content Moderation Business Linked With Facebook]

Teaneck, N.J.-based Cognizant early last year was forced to respond to reports that employees it hired to act as content moderators for Facebook performed traumatizing work for low pay and little emotional support.

Cognizant eventually laid off 6,000 employees as a it exited the content moderation business.

Accenture is ranked No. 2 on the CRN Solution Provider 500 list of companies. Cognizant is ranked No. 6.

The content moderators listed five demands in their letter, including letting any moderators who are at high risk from COVID-19 or who live with others at high risk be allowed to work from home indefinitely, let employees who can do the moderation work from home do so, offer moderators who work at the office on high-risk materials related to criminal activities hazard pay of 1.5-times their normal pay, end outsourcing and bring the moderation work in-house, and offer moderators healthcare and psychiatric care beyond the current 45 minutes a week with a “wellness coach.”

“The current crisis highlights that at the core of Facebook’s business lies a deep hypocrisy. By outsourcing our jobs, Facebook implies that the 35,000 of us who work in moderation are somehow peripheral to social media. Yet we are so integral to Facebook’s viability that we must risk our lives to come into work,” the moderators wrote.

Facebook did not respond to a request from CRN for comment as of press time.

However, Accenture, in a statement that was not attributed to a specific executive, told CRN via email that in general the company is finding alternatives including work from home for vulnerable employees or those living with vulnerable people, and that all its Facebook team members have access to comprehensive plans.

Accenture also wrote that an important part of its culture is to encourage employees to have a dialogue about issues that arise in the workplace and beyond. The company said it is also gradually inviting its employees to return to offices, but “only where there is a critical need to do so and only when we are comfortable that we have put the right safety measures in place, following local ordinances.”

Those measures include vastly reduced building occupancy, extensive social distancing and masks, daily office cleaning, individual transportation, and other measures, the company told CRN.

“We continually review, benchmark and invest in our wellness programs to create a supportive workplace environment. Our people have unrestricted access to wellness support, which includes proactive, confidential and on-demand counseling that is backed by a strong employee assistance program. We encourage everyone to raise wellness concerns through these programs,” Accenture wrote.

CPL said in a statement that its employees “carry out extremely important work, keeping the Facebook platform safe. They are positively contributing to society in the work that they do in ensuring the safety of our online communities, and their roles are deemed essential. Due to the nature of the work, it cannot be carried out from home.”

The company added that “the health and safety of our employees is our top priority and we review each employee’s situation on a case by case basis. Our employees work in a state of the art office which is operating at 25% capacity to facilitate strict social distancing. We are providing private transport to and from the office, so employees do not need to take public transport.”

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