To be a content moderator is to see humanity at its worst – but Kayleigh needs money. That’s why she takes a job working for a social media platform whose name she isn’t allowed to mention. Her task: reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and deciding which need to be removed. It’s gruelling work. Kayleigh and her colleagues spend all day watching horrors and hate on their screens, evaluating them with the platform’s ever changing moderating guidelines. Yet Kayleigh is good at her job, and in her colleagues she finds a group of friends, even a new girlfriend – and for the first time in her life, Kayleigh’s future seems bright.
But soon the job seems to change them all, shifting their worlds in alarming ways. How long before the moderators own morals bend and flex under the weight of what they see?
Thanks to the publisher for the early gifted copy of this book, as someone who uses social media a lot, the premise appealed to me. A novella of just 134 pages I read this over two evenings and while it was a somewhat dark read it was one that I enjoyed.
Told in the first person voice of Kayleigh who, having run up some debts takes a job moderating content for a big social media platform. Honestly, prior to reading this I had given no thought to this job and hadn’t really even considered that it must exist. But think about it, the things people post – we have all read the stories of content that has been removed – cruel, sadistic, extreme, the list goes on. And then give some thought to the people who have to watch ALL of that content and decide its fate. Meet Kayleigh.
The job is secretive, the name of the platform undisclosed and the rules are strict, creating a somewhat closed community of staff – unable to speak with others outside of the company about what they see, they become a group that over time become affected, desensitised or traumatised by things they have seen. Kayleigh forms an intense relationship Sigrid, a co worker and while we hear about this from Kayleigh, Sigrid’s side of what happens emerges as something very different.
Kayleigh tells her story, looking back in response to a solicitor filing a litigation claim against the firm for damages caused by the viewing of such content, however all is not quite as it seems and we, the reader are left wondering as the impact of the work is evident. How damaged are the workers, how desensitised as they shift in their positioning of extreme views and conspiracies and much worse…
A sharp and dark book that is well written, thought provoking and sinister, highlighting the truly dark side of social media and the erroding and warped effect it can have on just about anyone.
Translated from Dutch to English by Emma Rault, the translation was flawless and it wasn’t until after I had finished reading that I noticed this was a translated novella.
About the Author
Hanna Bervoets is one of the most acclaimed Dutch writers of her generation. She is the author of seven novels in her home country of the Netherlands, and she has also written screenplays, plays, short stories and essays. She is the recipient of many literary awards including the prestigious Frans Kellendonk Prize for her entire body of work. She was a resident at Art Omi: Writers at Ledig House, New York and currently works and lives in Amsterdam with her girlfriend and two guinea pigs. We Had To Remove This Post is her first book to be translated into English.