Facebook has been accused of trying to silence moderators concerning their working conditions through the imposition of non-disclosure agreements.
According to documents viewed by The Guardian, Facebook moderators in Dublin, Ireland, have relayed concerns that they are not being permitted to discuss working condition issues openly with Leo Varadkar, Ireland's Tánaiste (country deputy head).
Moderators working at Facebook's Irish headquarters are responsible for tackling and removing violent content, material deemed inappropriate, and misinformation on the platform.
While the social media giant has recently outlined plans to expand its content moderation efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has also come under fire for allegedly forcing staff to work from the office in Dublin rather than allowing them to stay home.
Ireland is currently in Level 5 restrictions which includes a ban on household visits, travel limits, the closure of non-essential shops -- and only "essential" workers being permitted to travel to work.
The publication says that non-disclosure agreements may be creating a "wall of silence" between moderators and Varadkar, and moderators have claimed that these NDAs, signed on the first day of the job, are being leveraged as a warning against discussing working conditions outside of the headquarters on pain of disciplinary action.
In response to these concerns, Facebook reportedly gave moderators "partial" permission to talk to the Irish official, but added that information could not be shared which is under "contractual confidentiality obligations."
Workers have sought to obtain a copy of these obligations from their immediate employer, Covalen -- the moderator supplier -- but have reportedly not received replies to their queries. The moderators are being supported by civil rights non-profit Foxglove.
In a statement, Facebook said that as Covalen is the third-party employer, NDAs are not directly secured with staff and the company is only responsible for protecting user data and personal information.
"These obligations require Facebook to have confidentiality, privacy, and security terms in their supplier contracts, and for their suppliers to convey these obligations to their employees -- either through legal documents like NDAs, training, or other means," Facebook said.
Covalen also hit back against the claims, saying that confidentiality agreements are sent via email once employment begins and copies are always on-hand.
"Covalen respects the rights of our employees to meet with public representatives but we always encourage employees, when issues arise relating to their employment, to engage with the company through our internal processes first in order to see if they can be resolved," the firm added.
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