If you are reading this, you are on the Internet. And if you are on the Internet, you should see The Cleaners.
Directed by Moritz Riesewieck and Hans Block, this unmistakable documentary illuminates the most uncomfortable questions about social media and the online era. You may want to look away. But, as the film shows, this is a big part of the problem.
Having premiered in positive reviews atin January, the film opens exclusively at the Laemmle Monica Cinema in Los Angeles on November 23rd. There is no reason for wider distribution from cinemas or streaming services, but one has to break out the checkbook. This film is indifferent only in the last year.
The "cleaners" of the title are the web content moderators: the men and women who work in analyzing your videos, photos and social media publications to decide whether they are offensive or A-OK. In recent years, its rise, social bubbles of the media, more and more polarized speech all over the world . So you can assume that these giants of the Internet employ troops of highly trained experts to act as guardians of our delicate sensibilities.
The film introduces us to a handful of content moderators living in the Philippines, where Facebook, et al. outsourcing extreme content policing. Armed with just the option of "erasing" or "ignoring" each location, these digital detoxification devices go through an endless stream of photos and videos – 25,000 a day, in fact. They need to understand the complexity, for example, of pornography as opposed to a naked painting by Donald Trump or to judge freedom of speech against the hate speech. And they have to make these colorful and highly contextual editorial decisions in about eight seconds.
Delete or ignore?
If they make mistakes, they have a problem. But if they do not see enough from these extreme images during their shift, they have a problem. And over time, the wavy tidal wave of horrific images leads to a problem of a different kind.
Cleaners follow the home of content moderators, showing families based on them to get stuck with work, no matter how awesome it is. It's a well-paid job in Manila, but it's still a digital sweatshop.
"I've seen hundreds of beatings," he pointed out an anonymous cleaner with a flat voice. They watch suicides that happen alive, sick videos show that children are sexually abused, terrible war crime carnage entries. Some prefer to go through the rubbish of a more natural species – to clean the local dump – instead of seeing another awful video. Others, the film tells us, are ending their lives.
Delete or ignore?
But the psychological effect on the watchers of this horror flow is just the beginning.
The Cleaners are expanding to examine the impact of social media in the world, asking a hard question after a tough question. We seeto connect the world. The filmmakers then take us to Turkey, Myanmar and the Philippines, where authoritarian governments are pursuing the political opposition – and the giants of the social media help them to erase the diverging voices.
It seems reasonable, for example, that YouTube may prohibit videos that show violent real violence. But what happens when the video shows when an illegal plane flattens a hospital? When people in war-torn countries can not show the world the horrors that are happening in their own country, those who drop bombs in schools are moving away with it. When the references from the first line are deleted, the world can ignore the conflict.
Along with the potential silence of the marginalized, social media algorithms are increasingly rewarding cement cements and self-sustaining extreme views that attract more likes and shares. This includes the wave of popular racism in Myanmar directed at the people of Rohingya, who face genocide. Closer to the house, we see the screaming struggle going on for a political speech in an increasingly divided country. Ambitious and thorough, the Cleaners are going through the world all over the world by talking to journalists, artists, political activists and more to highlight these different issues.
Regarding the giants of the internet, The Cleaners also feature government government hearings of the past 10 years where Facebook, Google and Twitter representatives are trapping hard questions. Heavyweight former Silicon Valleyites also weigh, including one of the lawyers who filed with the US Senate. It still speaks about the "privilege" of the job for Google, but there are cracks on the facade. Asked about the role of Facebook in, he replies, "I did not … like this solution."
Compared towhich comes from social networks throughout the movie, which feels like a catastrophic introduction.
How much can Facebook and Google and the rest claim to have no control or responsibility for the content they put into our lives? Cleaners do an excellent job of summarizing issues around social media. We do not yet know how to clean up this chaos, but the film is full of pressing questions faced by web giants, governments and you and me. When democracy, transparency and debate are erased, we can not ignore it.
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