It Took Me 2 Months to Recover From Working As a TikTok Moderator
- An ex-TikTok moderator employed by outsourcers Majorel said the job made him feel burned out and depressed.
- He was paid less than $7 hourly and said he reviewed approximately 1,000 videos per hour.
- This essay is based on a conversation with an anonymous former Majorel employee, as told to reporter Rosie Bradbury.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a former TikTok moderator. He spoke anonymously as he signed a strict confidentiality agreement before training. Insider verified his identity and wage with documentation. The following below has been edited for length and clarity.
We couldn’t say “TikTok.” They were always “the client.” Between my work friends, it was “TikTok”, but officially, it was always just “the client.”
I worked for Majorel, one of the companies that TikTok uses to outsource its content moderation. I was a moderator for TikTok’s Spanish and Latin American regional content for over two years.
At first, I liked it, it was interesting watching videos. But after a few months, every day became the same, always the same. After a year, I started to develop some burnout symptoms.
The targets moderators were required to hit were high, around 1,000-odd videos per day. Even after the news that TikTok had added videos of five minutes or longer, they didn’t adapt their targets. I didn’t want to work, I was depressed. I saw Majorel’s on-site psychologist, who was part of its Be Well program.
I left Majorel almost four months ago, it took me at least one or two months to recover. I feel much better now. The stress and the depression lasted after I quit. And then I had this fear of losing my new job for a stupid thing. With TikTok, it could be you lose your job just for a video. We are not robots, we can lose our concentration. If it happens a few times that the moderator has a video on their screen that should be tagged with an important tag — porn, suicide, death — but the moderator doesn’t tag anything, that equals fired. I’m only just starting to see that my new company is different.
By the time I had left, all of my team were gone except one, all of them had changed jobs after one year or so. People can’t be in that job for very long.
We sometimes had to work seven days in a row, they’d decide all of our shifts. And we were a big team, so there was no need to do that. Not in this kind of job, where you need to be mentally clear. You have to rest. Each shift, I’d see maybe five or ten videos that were gross, stuff that no one wants to see. When you watch a lot of people doing sick things, that affects you a lot.
Actually, even the psychologist said they had to work for seven days straight or more. When my psychologist told me, I was like, “What the fuck?”. Because you have to help other people, and you can’t do that well if you have to work that much. It makes no sense at all. (Editor’s note: Majorel said its staff agree shifts and days with managers in advance, and that they can only work consecutively for a maximum of six days.)
The worst I saw was a repost from a Facebook Live video of a guy who died by suicide with a gun, it was very gory, and we had to watch all the content without any kind of blurring or censor.
When I was in the office, every day a lot of people would cry, you can imagine how hard it is. I think at least half of the team is affected by the job. It’s very hard for some people.
When we started working from home, the content was the same, just as graphic, as when we were in the office. They started a BeWell program where we had one-to-one sessions with psychologists, we had once a week or once a month, depending on the person. That was a good idea. My psychologist helped me a lot. Some people thought that they didn’t need it or that it was useless, but for me, it was really good.
TikTok were constantly announcing new policies, they’ll decide one thing one day, then reverse it later. I don’t think they even know what they are doing.
I was making 1,100 euros ($1,180) more or less per month, depending on the tax and if we had work on any holidays. It was very low. It’s not minimum wage, but it’s not a very good salary here in Barcelona, because it’s the capital of Catalonia.
The salary was especially poor given how mentally challenging the job was, that’s why I think we deserve more money than that.
In the office, it was good because we had contact with our team, and we would chat a little bit and have fun. Working from home it’s not the same, even if sometimes there is a meeting. Even if we chat a lot, it’s not the same.
And you’re in a WhatsApp group, so even on your day off, you can’t totally disconnect.
Even if the company is shit, the people working there, at least 90% of them are good. We don’t have any problem with our team managers, they were always very supportive and helped a lot.
If I could work there for so long, it was because I had friends there to talk to during the workday, because eight hours just moderating would be impossible without any kind of support like what we gave to each other.
Because to the company, you feel like you’re just another number.
A spokesperson for TikTok said: “Our trust and safety team partners with third-party firms on the critical work of helping to protect the TikTok platform and community, and we strive to promote a caring working environment for our employees and contractors. We continue to develop ways to help moderators feel supported mentally and emotionally.”
Karsten König, EVP global clients and practice lead at Majorel, said: “The health and well-being of our content moderators in Barcelona is our number one priority. We demonstrate this every day by providing 24/7 professional psychological support, together with a comprehensive suite of health and well-being initiatives that receive high praise from our people […] We know that providing a safe and supportive working environment for our content moderators is key to delivering excellent services for our clients and their customers.”