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Content moderators see horrible things. This lawyer is fighting for their right to talk about it

Foxglove cofounder and director Cori Crider is helping the tech industry’s least-visible workers win back some of the labor rights that decades of Silicon Valley “disruption” have undone.

Content moderators see horrible things. This lawyer is fighting for their right to talk about it

Imagine being one of the thousands of behind-the-scenes moderators whose job it is to keep social networks free of vile content. The pay is low. You’re subjected to endless hours of traumatizing images. And, as lawyer and activist Cori Crider notes, you can’t talk about it due to stifling nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), which she says are legally dubious. “I think it’s rubbish,” Crider says. “[NDAs are a] paper tiger. People are legally entitled to raise concerns about their workplace conditions.”

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Foxglove, a U.K.-based legal advocacy nonprofit Crider cofounded in 2019, is helping the tech industry’s least-visible workers win back some of the labor rights that decades of Silicon Valley “disruption” have undone. Crider, who spent years defending Guantanamo Bay detainees and torture victims during the “war on terror,” says content moderators’ mental anguish resonates with her personally. “Every one of them has seen something that they cannot forget.” Foxglove’s work has emboldened moderators to speak out publicly and in the courts—and it’s getting the attention of regulators and lawmakers.

The group has already been involved in several private lawsuits in Ireland, Facebook’s European hub, and earlier this year, Foxglove brokered a first-of-its-kind hearing between content moderators and Ireland’s deputy prime minister, who has voiced sympathy for their cause. In the U.K., Foxglove—which has a staff of just five lawyers, investigators, and activists—has won all of its first four cases. “We’ve had 15 years of essentially unregulated social media,” Crider says. “I don’t think it’s worked terribly well.”

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About the author

Christopher Zara is a senior news editor for Fast Company and obsessed with media, technology, business, culture, and theater. Before coming to FastCo News, he was a deputy editor at International Business Times, a theater critic for Newsweek, and managing editor of Show Business magazine

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