Collectively, the employees described a workplace that is perpetually teetering on the brink of chaos. It is an environment where workers cope by telling dark jokes about committing suicide, then smoke weed during breaks to numb their emotions. It's a place where employees can be fired for making just a few errors a week -- and where those who remain live in fear of the former colleagues who return seeking vengeance. [...] Where people develop severe anxiety while still in training, and continue to struggle with trauma symptoms long after they leave; and where the counseling that Cognizant offers them ends the moment they quit -- or are simply let go.
The moderators told me it's a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Another former employee, who told me he has mapped every escape route out of his house and sleeps with a gun at his side, said: "I no longer believe 9/11 was a terrorist attack." [...]
Here is a racist joke. Here is a man having sex with a farm animal. Here is a graphic video of murder recorded by a drug cartel. [...] When Miguel has a question, he raises his hand, and a "subject matter expert" (SME) -- a contractor expected to have more comprehensive knowledge of Facebook's policies, who makes $1 more per hour than Miguel does -- will walk over and assist him. This will cost Miguel time, though, and while he does not have a quota of posts to review, managers monitor his productivity, and ask him to explain himself when the number slips into the 200s. [...]
It entrusts essential questions of speech and safety to people who are paid as if they were handling customer service calls for Best Buy. [...]
One QA, named Randy, would sometimes return to his car at the end of a work day to find moderators waiting for him. Five or six times over the course of a year, someone would attempt to intimidate him into changing his ruling. "They would confront me in the parking lot and tell me they were going to beat the shit out of me," he says. "There wasn't even a single instance where it was respectful or nice. It was just, You audited me wrong! That was a boob! That was full areola, come on man!"
Fearing for his safety, Randy began bringing a concealed gun to work. Fired employees regularly threatened to return to work and harm their old colleagues, and Randy believed that some of them were serious. A former coworker told me she was aware that Randy brought a gun to work, and approved of it, fearing on-site security would not be sufficient in the case of an attack. [...]
When I ask about the risks of contractors developing PTSD, a counselor I'll call Logan tells me about a different psychological phenomenon: "post-traumatic growth," an effect whereby some trauma victims emerge from the experience feeling stronger than before.
I've been reading this same story since before Google bought Youtube, so 14 years now at least? Good to see that it hasn't gotten any better at all.
If you want a vision of the future, imaging a 30 second clip of a boot stamping on a human face, looping forever.