Facebook moderators in Ireland are being forced back to the office despite the country being in national lockdown

  • Contracted Facebook moderators in Ireland have been told to carry on coming into the office despite the country being in its strictest level of COVID-19 restrictions, the Guardian reports.
  • Moderators working for contractor CPL were told they were deemed "essential" workers, and so they'd be required to come into the office.
  • One moderator told the Guardian staff feel "exploited," as their full-time Facebook coworkers are able to work from home until July 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Facebook's moderators in Ireland are being told to come into the office despite the country being in its highest level of lockdown, the Guardian reports.

Ireland last week enforced its highest level of coronavirus restrictions, which are set to last for six weeks. These restrictions tell people to work from home where possible, unless they are "providing an essential service for which your physical presence is required."

Facebook moderators working for contractor CPL were told they were classified as "essential" workers, so they must continue coming into the office.

"Your role involves ensuring the safety of online communities and the internet," CPL told moderators. "The provision of services necessary to deliver and support […] communications activities is an essential role. The company has concluded that your job cannot be undertaken from home."

According to the Guardian report, staff who are shielding were told they could stay home, but no exemption was made for people with at-risk people living in their household.

Staff also said when they returned to the office in July, they were told that if anyone in the building tested positive for COVID-19 it would be shut for 72 hours. Emails to staff viewed by the Guardian confirmed there have been three cases so far in October, but the office has remained open.

Facebook's contracted workforce have long been treated differently to its salaried employees, who were told in August that they would be able to work from home until July 2021.

"People are feeling that they're being exploited," one moderator told the Guardian under condition of anonymity because they had signed a non-disclosure agreement.

"Facebook themselves, they are making almost all their employees work from home. Even people working in the same team, on the same project as us — we're doing the same work — Facebook is letting them work from home and not us," they added.

This is not the first report of contracted Facebook moderators being forced back to the office. Last week tech news site Rest of World reported Facebook moderators in India were forced back to work by their contracted employer while COVID-19 cases were spiking over the summer.

The Verge reported on October 1 that moderators working in Texas and California were also being told to return to the office.

CPL was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Business Insider, but a spokesperson told the Guardian: "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."

A Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian: "Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we've worked to keep both our workforce and the people who use our platforms safe. In recent months, our partners have started to bring some content reviewers back to offices to support review of content related to real-world harm like child safety."

"Our focus has always been on how this content review can be done in a way that keeps our reviewers safe. Any reviewer who is considered vulnerable will continue to work from home and other situations are being considered on a case-by-case basis. We are also working with our partners to ensure strict health and safety measures are in place and any confirmed cases of illness are disclosed," they added.

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