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Infinit Care Spotlight Series: A closer look at worker profiles that need workplace mental health support

May 26, 2022 8:00 p.m.

Being on the internet has become a regular part of our everyday life. According to the latest statistics, 3.96 billion people use social media globally, with each person spending an average of 147 minutes or two hours and seven minutes on digital platforms every day.

These are significant figures if you look at them from the context of the level of exposure we get from the digital platforms we access.

Over the last few years, the internet has played a pivotal role in society–building businesses and new industries, creating new needs, and of course, shaping the mindset of the public as a whole. Without a doubt, the internet has become so powerful that it can shape generations and the way they think and act as a whole.

But have you ever wondered how information is sifted and checked in the online worlds we love to immerse ourselves in?

Websites and applications, big and small, have community guidelines that protect their users from being exposed to harmful information, but who exactly are the people working behind the scenes and doing the heavy lifting of screening this information?

In this article, we will talk about the sentinels of the internet and the plight that comes with their profession.

Meet the Content Moderators.

Content Moderation in a Nutshell

Content moderation, at its simplest, is the process of screening and monitoring user-generated content posted on online platforms.

Whenever a user submits or uploads something to a website, moderators go through the content to make sure that the material follows the community regulations and is not criminal or illegal in nature.

Some examples of banned content that content moderators screen are those that contain sexual themes, drugs, bigotry, homophobia, harassment, and racism.

While content moderation is applied to a majority of online platforms, they are even more so practiced in websites with a heavy lean toward user-generated uploads.

This includes social media platforms, online marketplaces, communities and forums, the sharing economy, and even dating sites.

There are two different types of content moderation that websites use: AI-automated and human moderation.

In the first type, a machine learning system is designed to moderate posts based on previous data gathered from the internet.

AI moderation is significantly faster–sometimes only taking seconds to review posts, but it might not always be 100 percent accurate because it relies on machine learning which may not always pick up the right cues.

Human moderation, on the other hand, is a manual type of process that involves an actual person who reviews the posts.

Under this category, the screener follows specific platform rules and guidelines to check the user-generated content submitted to the website. While this type of moderation is more foolproof than its counterpart, it also takes more time due to its manual nature.

Moreover, it also presents a serious problem within its workforce that unfortunately, is not often well addressed: mental distress.

The Dark Side of Content Moderation

While content moderation remains to be a discreet profession, at least in the Philippines, more and more people who have worked in the field have stepped up over the recent years to speak up about the challenges and dangers that are prevalent in the industry.

A riveting 2018 internationally produced documentary titled ‘The Cleaners’ gave an exhaustive look at the plight of moderators in the country who worked for online giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google, and tackled the subject of their mental health struggles from their job.

Facebook itself has acknowledged the difficulties that come with the profession while Microsoft has faced lawsuits from former employees who claim that they were not given proper support despite the psychological dangers of their job.

Moderators sift through hundreds of submissions that contain triggering content not limited to depictions of death, torture, mutilation, and violence for hours, sometimes with only limited time for breaks.

The nature of the work can lead to the development of mental distress and psychological issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and even depression.

This is something that is also supported by data from other studies in journalism, law enforcement, and child protection which claim that repeated trauma exposure can lead to psychological distress.

On top of that, workers in the said areas have also been stated to suffer more from burnout, relationship challenges, and even suicide.

The following are other mental health problems that can arise from exposure to toxic content:

  • Panic attacks – some moderators have expressed feeling attacks when being around animals and children–fearing something will happen to them–after repeated exposure to violent videos.
  • Normalization/Desensitization to disturbing humor and language – repetitive exposure to disturbing content can change the mindsets and perspectives of its audience, leading to inappropriate humor and language.
  • Self-destructive habits – alcoholism, use of drugs, and display of indiscriminate sexual habits have supposedly also been reported in the workplaces of moderators who presumedly engage in them as a way of emotional escape to their job.
  • Skewed beliefs – in some cases, some content moderators can also develop fringe views (e.g. believing conspiracy theories) that are not supported by hard facts because of constant exposure to their materials.

The Cost of Internet Safety

Without a doubt, content moderators serve as the first layer of protection of the general public from disturbing and harmful materials.

Unfortunately, they are not always properly protected from the rigors that come with their profession.

Unlike different workplaces (for example, those in the health sector, law and policing, and journalism) which have more solid guidelines when it comes to taking care of the mental needs of their workforce, there is an obvious lack of the same system for those working in the content moderation industry.

In an article by Harvard, it is even said that companies are even very restrictive about letting others investigate their existing procedures and treatment of these workers.

Not only are there no third parties monitoring the welfare of employees, but people working in the industry are also commonly asked to refrain from talking about their work through non-disclosure contracts.

Fortunately, some companies have also taken the initiative to develop workplace guidelines that can improve the treatment of those in the industry.

Facebook, for example, helped create the Technology Coalition which then designed the Employee Resilience Guidebook, a guide that outlines rules protecting the occupational health and safety of workers reviewing distressing content.

While the guidelines were made for those who are focused on employees dealing with child pornography, it also has terms that can be used for others in professions that expose workers to distressing imagery and content.

Specifically, the guide includes rules such as the provision of mandatory individual and group counseling sessions with a certified trauma specialist, limiting exposure to disturbing content for four hours, giving employees the choice to opt out of viewing specific disturbing content, encouraging them to switch to other projects as a form of relief, and giving them enough time to take a break and recover from their work.

Protecting the Protectors

While overarching guidelines are already being developed on a global scale, it cannot be debated that a huge chunk of the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the employers who are in a better position to observe and improve the best practices in this area.

Here at Infinit Care, for example, we follow a tried and tested framework, the Mental Health Continuum, to make sure that every employee working in high-risk professions gets the mental health support that they need, wherever they are on the scale – whether they are excelling, surviving or in crises. (Click here to know more about the Mental Health Continuum.)

Our Head of Clinical Care Shyne Mangulabnan suggests several ways on how employers can put this to work.

“Having a counseling professional who can help these employees is essential as well as having a solid support and assessment system for them. For example, surveys given to agents which can be used as a reference for the design of a wellness strategy is a good place to start. Constant monitoring of employees should also be done to make sure that their needs are met.”

On top of that, Mangulabnan also suggests creating proper escalation procedures for concerns relating to the mental health challenges of content moderators.

Proper education of important stakeholders within the company (human resource team, upper management) about mental health risks of the job is also necessary since they are the decision-makers who create systems that take care of employees.

“It would be best to have an end-to-end solution: an onboarding process that gives candidates the training and education they need to understand the risks and concepts of well-being,  round-the-clock onsite and virtual counseling services, community support groups, yoga and meditation activities, and workshops are just some of the many things that employers can initiate to make sure that they give the support that their workforce needs.”

True enough, it is the responsibility of employers to make sure that they ‘protect the protectors’ of the internet.

However, it’s not only the content moderators who should be given this kind of support, especially with 43 percent of the global workforce expressing that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the stress that they suffer from work.

This story is just the first chapter of a series that will shed light on all the professions who need mental health support most in these trying times.

Do you need help on how you can start caring for your employees in this aspect? We’d be more than happy to guide you here at Infinit Care. We are a company that helps other companies provide comprehensive mental health care support to their employees through the use of science-backed methodologies. You can reach out to us here to know more about how we can help.

NEWS

Atayde backs PH Olympic fencer, QC fencing development program

4:11 p.m. May 21, 2024

QUEZON City 1st District Rep. Juan Carlos “Arjo” Atayde last week pledged to back QCSEP, a Quezon City fencing program responsible for producing one of the Filipino athletes going to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Atayde, a member of the Youth Sports Development Committee in the House of Representatives, said “fencing is one of the many sports that young Filipino athletes can excel in, and we are working with Councilor Joseph Juico so that we can help QCSEP better develop Filipino fencers who can compete not only in local tournaments, but also in international competitions.”

Atayde commended QCSEP for producing a Filipino fencer slated to represent the country in the 2024 Paris Olympics — 22-year-old Barangay Del Monte resident Samantha Kyle Catantan.  

Catantan qualified for the Paris Olympics after winning the gold in the women’s foil event at the Asia-Oceania Zonal Olympic Qualifier last July in the United Arab Emirates. She is the first Filipino fencer to qualify for the summer games since Walter Torres in 1988. 

“QCSEP deserves credit for developing world-class fencers like our very own Samantha Catantan,” said Atayde. “Her qualifying for the Olympics is proof that we should invest time and resources in fencing, which is why we plan to provide support for this sport in our district, and later on the entire Quezon City.”

Atayde stressed that support for sports programs is necessary “if we want to help Filipino athletes achieve their dreams of competing in the Olympics.”

Atayde met Juico, the young fencers of QCSEP, and their parents on May 17 at the legislator’s district office in West Avenue, Quezon City to discuss ways to help and to develop fencers not only from their district, but also cities from all over Metro Manila. 

“It’s great to know that there’s a grassroots sports program for fencing in Quezon City that develops and nurtures kids from all over Metro Manila. With enough helping hands, QCSEP can produce fencers who can excel in the sport and one day win a medal for our country in the Olympics,” said Atayde, who extended financial support for the team’s ongoing programs.

QCSEP Fencing is a program spearheaded by longtime QC 1st District Councilor Juico. It was established 18 years ago and is an active advocate of grassroots sports development.

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NEWS

Activision brings Call of Duty Warzone Mobile to the court with unique basketball collaboration

5:09 p.m. May 19, 2024

Activision has made an exciting move with its latest Call of Duty Warzone Mobile campaign, seamlessly integrating the world of basketball to create real connections within the community. By combining the strategic elements of basketball with the intense gameplay of Warzone Mobile, Activision highlights how teamwork and quick thinking dominate in both arenas.

In a creative collaboration with Jappy Agoncillo, a renowned muralist, illustrator, and devoted COD fan, Activision has transformed a basketball court at SV Ball Park in New Manila, Quezon City into a vibrant, Warzone-themed masterpiece. This unique project not only showcases Agoncillo’s artistic talent but also underscores the synergy between the worlds of basketball and gaming.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the CODWZM Basketball Court Takeover, check out this video.

Filipinos’ passion for basketball is well-known, with the sport deeply ingrained in the nation’s culture. This collaboration taps into that love, creating a space where fans of both basketball and Call of Duty can come together. Watch how PBA Moto Club, Eruption, Jappy Agoncillo, and Honeycomb Arts brought this project to life in this special feature

Visit the Court:

  • Location: SV Ball Park, New Manila, Quezon City
  • Visiting Hours: Fridays through Sundays from 1 PM to 5 PM
  • Duration: May 16 to July 1, 2024

Basketball and Call of Duty Warzone enthusiasts are invited to experience this one-of-a-kind court, which will be open to the public during the above specified hours to ensure better accommodation and avoid overlapping with regular league games.

Visitors can enjoy the artwork, play basketball, and immerse themselves in the dynamic atmosphere that brings Warzone Mobile’s intensity to life.

Don’t miss out on this exciting blend of art, sports, and gaming. Swing by SV Ball Park and be part of

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NEWS

“Priceless” Nino Muhlach FAMAS trophy sold to Boss Toyo 

12:59 p.m. May 15, 2024

Entrepreneur and child actor Nino Muhlach gave Boss Toyo one of his prized awards from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) in exchange for P500,000.

But Boss Toyo reiterated that Muhlach’s award is “priceless” and will become part of his future museum. 

In an episode of Pinoy Pawnstars last Monday, Boss Toyo haggled with Muhlach, who personally visited the content creator’s shop in Quezon City to personally give one of his five FAMAS awards and make it as part of his collection.

“Aalagaan mo ‘yan, irerestore mo yan [Take care of that, restore it],” Muhlach told Boss Toyo. 

Boss Toyo said that he wants to restore the award, one of Muhlach’s five FAMAS awards to its former glory and showcase it in his planned museum alongside the award that Jiro Manio sold to Boss Toyo a few months ago. 

Muhlach said that it was Toyo who personally inquired about the award and decided to sell to the content creator one of the five Best Child Performer awards that he received in his career. 

“I decided to give it to him, pero big deal, kailangan alagaan niya and irestore niya and ilagay niya sa museum niya, dahil hindi ko na naalagaan, ‘yun ang deal namin [I decided to give it to him, but big deal because he needs to take care of it seriously, restore it and put it in his museum because I never take care of it. That’s our deal],” Muhlach said.

Boss Toyo said that Nino Muhlach’s FAMAS award is one of his dream items as he wants to note how Muhlach changed Filipino entertainment through his movies with noted Filipino actors such as the King of Filipino movies and legends such as Fernando Poe Jr. and Dolphy. 

“Ikaw ang barometer, ‘pag sinabing ‘child actor’, tandaan natin, wala pa akong nakitang nakadaig sayo as a child actor [You are the barometer of a ‘child actor’ because we have to remember nobody does it better than you],” Toyo said. 

Apart from the award, Muhlach gave to Boss Toyo some of the theater lobby cards from the movies he starred in and produced. 

Aside from acting, Muhlach also dabbled in several businesses, including the El Nino Apartments and Muhlach Ensaymada, which was gifted to Boss Toyo.

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