When the scandal broke about Cambridge Analytica harvesting Facebook data in order to influence election campaigns, it was hardly the first negative press the company had received. Indeed, the major social media giants have faced a string of accusations and allegations for failing to deal with posts on their sites, ranging from far-right and Islamic extremism to bullying, harassment and abuse. However, if you post something on the internet, it’s not guaranteed to stay there. Enter the shady world of The Cleaners.
When you report a post on say Facebook it doesn’t just simply disappear into a moderation black hole. The job of deciding whether an image is offensive or not is largely outsourced to companies in Asia. In Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck’s documentary The Cleaners, they speak to workers in the Philippines whose job it is to sift through a vast number of images and decide whether they’re appropriate or not.
The Cleaners delves deeply into the shadowy and disturbing world of workers in Manilla who must decide which of the 25,000 Facebook images they view each day to censor. As well as raising ethical questions about their right and ability to decide what is and isn’t appropriate, The Cleaners also looks at how they’re treated and the toll this job takes on them mentally. Asking more questions than it answers and playing out like a thriller, The Cleaners takes us into a dark and disquieting world of social media policing.