If Then

“Empathy at Scale”

Journalist Casey Newton on the trauma of Facebook content moderators.

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On today’s show, host April Glaser looks at the continuing battle between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Earlier this week, the SEC asked a judge to hold Musk in contempt for tweets he’s made about Tesla’s performance. The SEC says Musk violated a settlement he reached with the commission last year, which required him to have his tweets reviewed before sending them.


Then, Will Oremus speaks with journalist Casey Newton about an investigation he published this week on the tech site the Verge. The article is headlined, “The Trauma Floor: The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America.” Newton talked to current and former employees of a moderation facility in Arizona that contracts with Facebook, about the working conditions there. And, in particular, the psychological toll of scrutinizing hundreds of Facebook posts each day that feature extreme violence, hate speech, and conspiracy theories.


5:57 - Interview with Casey Newton

23:23 - Don’t Close My Tabs

Stories discussed on the show:

CNN: SEC Asks Judge to Hold Musk in Contempt

The Verge: The Trauma Floor: The Secret Lives of Facebook Moderators in America


Wired: The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed

Don’t Close My Tabs:

April: Mercury News: Facebook, Google Bikes Lead to Tensions With Neighbors

Will: Vox: How a Coat on Amazon Took Over a Neighborhood—and Then the Internet

Podcast production by Max Jacobs

You can get updates about what’s coming up next by following us on Twitter @ifthenpod. You can follow Will @WillOremus and April @Aprilaser. If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State UniversityNew America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.