The crap jobs of tomorrow

Via BoingBoing, the New York Times looks at a new breed of grim bottom-end employment in the digital age: Internet Content Reviewing. Main responsibilities include trawling through an endless river of text, images and video to ensure the removal of offensive content… and if you’ve more than a passing moment hanging out on the intertubes, you’ll have some idea of just how nasty some of that content might be.

With the rise of Web sites built around material submitted by users, screeners have never been in greater demand. Some Internet firms have tried to get by with software that scans photos for, say, a large area of flesh tones, but nothing is a substitute for a discerning human eye.

The surge in Internet screening services has brought a growing awareness that the jobs can have mental health consequences for the reviewers, some of whom are drawn to the low-paying work by the simple prospect of making money while looking at pornography.


David Graham, president of Telecommunications On Demand, the company near Orlando where Mr. Bess works, compared the reviewers to “combat veterans, completely desensitized to all kinds of imagery.” The company’s roughly 50 workers view a combined average of 20 million photos a week.

The compensation isn’t exactly awesome, either: wages peak out at US$12 per hour, and that’ll fall rapidly once someone gets a reliable outsource operation up and running. At least if you’re a sewer worker you can wash the stench off when you get home.

Leaving aside the extremity of the case in hand, though, it’s worth noting that this is essentially a gatekeeper/curation task – and we’ve already noted that curation is a growth industry thanks to the geometric expansion of content. Augmented reality will provide a whole new environment for this sort of work in the next few years… though I doubt the prospect of working outdoors will do much to ameliorate the essential unpleasantness and tedium of the task.

What other new (and shitty) jobs might our bright digital future provide?

4 thoughts on “The crap jobs of tomorrow”

  1. I didn’t mention those two because they already exist, Mark; some of the larger high-traffic sites have paid moderators (especially the newspaper sites), and ghost commenters… well, you should see the banal copypasta crap I have to sluice out from WordPress’ innards every morning here at Futurismic. Lucky we have some smart (and distinctly unghostly) commenters to make the work worthwhile. 🙂

  2. I have to say I think I would enjoy this work. I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at awful images on purpose before, and i don;’t mean porn, to be paid to explore the awfulness of the human mind sounds like fun to me.

  3. It is thanks to the selfless dedication of people like yourself that we’ve had sewage systems and pig farms for so many hundreds of years, my friend. On behalf of civilisation in general, I commend you.

    But you’re not looking after my cat while I’m out of town, okay? 😉

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