Digital Human Takes A Look At Modern Day Sin Eaters – The Content Moderators

Aleks Krotoski is back on BBC Radio 4 with a new series of the excellent The Digital Human and this week’s episode is entitled “Sin-eaters” :

Sin eating was an age old British practice carried out by those on the fringes of their communities. When someone died the sin eater would consume a ritualistic meal over the corpse and in doing so they would take on their sins. Whether they were outcasts because of this, or to start with folklorists can’t say. What is known for certain though is that they were among the poorest – who else would do it?

It’s a dirty job and someone’s got to do it. This episode takes a look at modern day Sin-eaters in the shape and form of content moderators. Early in the episode we hear this :

“One woman I spoke to, told me, after I stopped working on content moderation I wouldn’t shake people’s hand. If you’ve had the job that I’ve had you know that people are nasty.”

This is a harrowing episode in many ways, touching upon offensive content to content that is much much worse. This is the side of content moderation that we don’t hear much about, it’s a side of content moderation that isn’t widely talked about due in part to the fact that companies simply don’t want to talk about it and that in turn means it’s a side of content moderation that is greatly under appreciated.

Aleks Krotoski points out :

Their job is vital, but we treat them like second class citizens.

The episode features input from Sarah T. Roberts, Assistant Professor of Information Studies at UCLA who has been studying content moderation since 2010. Sarah runs a website on content moderation, or Commercial Content Moderation (CCM); The Illusion of Volition.

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