TikTok and Meta moderators join forces for better working conditions

TikTok and Meta content moderators in Germany have joined forces to demand better labor rights for some of social media companies’ most vulnerable employees, forming the first industry-wide collective of its kind in Europe.

The push comes as a result of a meeting in Berlin this week, chaired by German union Verdi and tech-justice group Foxglove, which brought together more than 40 workers sharing content on TikTok and Meta-owned platforms including Facebook and Moderate Instagram.

The new group is seeking a formal agreement with social media platforms over the rights of content moderators, who are often hired on short-term or zero-hour contracts and work long and intensive shifts while reviewing some of the platforms’ most harmful and illegal materials .

As part of the push, the new group wants Meta and TikTok to recognize that employees have the right to collectively bargain or organize and form legally protected “works councils” that exist in many EU countries to allow companies to have a of a certain size can negotiate on wages, working hours and working conditions.

The group of German moderators said if their demands are not met, they plan to take legal action against social media companies to enforce better labor standards.

“The moderators here [are] and demand that Big Tech fix their factory floor,” said Martha Dark, director at Foxglove.

Content moderators’ work can lead to long-term mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and contracts previously included disclaimers for the mental health effects of their work. The new collective said it will push for new rules for big tech companies to give workers access to 24/7 independent clinical support.

Thousands of employees across most social media networks have been laid off in recent months as companies experienced a drop in sales due to falling ad spend, prompting employees to seek formal replacement.

Social media companies rarely recognize labor movements. Twitter and Meta don’t have internal unions, but employees at Google’s parent company Alphabet, which owns YouTube, formed a union in 2021 that they described as the first of its kind.

Last year, the Financial Times revealed how employees in TikTok offices across Europe and in South Korea had formed works councils to formally represent workers.

“Without the hidden army of content moderators, there is no Facebook, no TikTok, no YouTube and no Google,” Dark said.

“No one knows better than them what steps need to be taken to keep us safe online. Businesses must now take immediate action to keep workers safe. There is no excuse and tech giants need to fix this immediately.”

TikTok and Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

https://www.ft.com/content/904f9bec-a3a0-4c45-a8d4-3b5d149ffd4c TikTok and Meta moderators join forces for better working conditions

Brian Ashcraft

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