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The Worst Job At Google: a Year of Watching Terrible Things On the Internet 535

Posted by Soulskill
from the rather-flip-burgers dept.
Cutting_Crew writes "Gizmodo has called attention to a story that describes the worst job you can get at Google: wading through and blocking objectionable content, which includes watching decapitations and beastiality. A ex-Google-employee who did just that tells his own story of a year-long stint of looking at the most horrible things on the internet. In the end, he needed therapy, and since he was a contractor, he was let go instead of being hired as a full time employee."
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The Worst Job At Google: a Year of Watching Terrible Things On the Internet

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  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:35PM (#41073217)

    I've never done the job, but I can assure you that goatse is the very least of the what the internet has to offer in terms of disturbing images. Honestly, from what I hear about these jobs, the only people who can last long term and probably psychopathic to some degree or another: i.e. they have little to no empathy for others.

  • by Razgorov Prikazka (1699498) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:35PM (#41073219)
    Yes, or the obligatory sarcastic remarks on "don't do evil".
    Poor guy...
  • Bloody hell ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:38PM (#41073277) Homepage

    Wow, I figure if anybody had to do that for a year, they should be given a pension, a quiet place to get away from things, and a LOT of therapy.

    I can't imagine being the poor bastard that has to look at the worst stuff on the internet. I've glimpsed enough to know that I wouldn't want to see any more of it. I'm frequently appalled at some of the things people choose to see.

    I think even the law enforcement guys can get fucked up from this, and they understand the need for support systems. Your first job our of school? That would ruin you forever.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:40PM (#41073327)

    It's unfortunate google doesn't take better care of the people they hire for this work, given the job as described it's not really surprising it fucks a lot of people up. You'd kinda think there should be a fairly extensive training programme first, and then a coping programme after, if nothing else because you really need to weed out the ones who are there because they enjoy it.

  • by Sasayaki (1096761) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:40PM (#41073339)

    Sounds pretty crappy. My first thought was, "It's basically being paid to look at the very worst threads on /b/. And basically being unable to stop unless you want to be jobless."

    They better have paid well, because while I consider myself pretty desensitized to a lot of things there's some stuff that still gets me (mainly involving permanent bodily harm like the Lamborghini Tool Pull from Jackass 3D).

  • Re:Forever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TaoPhoenix (980487) <> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:43PM (#41073399) Journal

    Maybe, just maybe not.
    Agreed with a little help afterwards, you could pull ahead of it such that "nothing can shock you ever again". They do it in the Military all the time, though in a more physical style.

  • Re:A weak mind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:46PM (#41073455) Homepage

    A weak mind? I'm sorry, but I'm willing to bet after watching this stuff for long enough it's going to have an effect on anybody but a sociopath. Then too, but they'd probably enjoy it.

    Soldiers and police offices get PTSD. The cops who work on child porn and the like get worn down. Heck, I bet people who work in ERs get a little twigged on this stuff.

    You immerse anybody in this stuff day in and day out, and I think it's safe to assume there's going to be some lasting trauma.

    And I have to assume that anybody who would volunteer for this and thrive on it ... well, you need to keep an eye on them because they're probably dangerous.

    Anybody who thinks simply being tough-minded (as opposed to being highly twisted) is all that it would take to "man up" and get past this is likely full of crap.

  • Not surprising. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:48PM (#41073497)

    A few years back I worked at an early TV-over-the-internet company (this was pre-Netflix and the company didn't really catch on as it required set-top boxes).

    While my job was fairly mundane (mostly setting up new storage filers), I often had to go into the recording room: studios would send us a bunch of movies, TV shows, etc. on non-copy-protected DVDs and a bunch of staffers would spend all day ripping these DVDs to our storage system. Each staffer had to ensure that the ripping was going well by reviewing all the content on a bank of 24 (6 rows of 4 monitors) small monitors.

    About 10% of the content the company hosted (which was responsible for about 90% of its income) was porn. All pretty standard fare, really, particularly for the internet: the worst they had was some mild kink/S&M stuff -- all stuff you could buy at your neighborhood adult shop.

    On its own and viewed in moderation, not really a big deal...but the staffers got a little warped after a year in the recording room, particularly when they'd have several monitors of porn, a few monitors of kids movies (e.g. Disney stuff), a few of various movies, etc. It wasn't so much that porn was bad, it was just that the juxtaposition of porn and all the other stuff is a bit off-putting, or so they said. I believe it.

    I can't imagine the horrors seen by the content-review people on sites where media is uploaded by the public. Poor bastards.

  • Re:Why not... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:48PM (#41073501)

    If they screw up, they get fired and lose the free porn source.

  • Re:Forever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:53PM (#41073561) Homepage

    Agreed with a little help afterwards, you could pull ahead of it such that "nothing can shock you ever again". They do it in the Military all the time, though in a more physical style.

    I would argue that if you take the most bad-assed military, police, or what have you ... unless someone has some serious issues of their own already which would make them enjoy it (which pretty much disqualifies them from doing the job), this kind of stuff 8 hours/day for a year is going to seriously fuck you up.

    Unless you really want your military made up of vicious sadists, I completely fail to see how this kind of thing wouldn't cause lasting damage -- or at least the need for some heavy duty counseling and support.

    That much exposure to every single horrible thing that ever gets filmed is bound to wear down anybody. And anybody it doesn't, likely scores in the very scary end of humanity.

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @03:55PM (#41073617) Journal

    [citation needed]

    Advertising, political campaigning, etc all have an effect on people. Why wouldn't this? However, censorship is not the right way to counter it.

  • Hire 4chan (Score:2, Insightful)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:06PM (#41073757) Homepage Journal

    I'm sure the fine denizens of /b/ would love to view all the bad things on the internet, and probably do it for free if not pay for the chance to get new OP.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:08PM (#41073771)
    It is appearing to me more and more, as I learn about the "tagging" practices and stories like this, as though Google is illegally employing people as "contractors" when they are really just low-level employees.

    This has been a long-time problem with large corporations. IBM was famously caught at doing that, and so was Microsoft.

    []The IRS has pretty clear guidelines about who is a "contractor" versus who is an "employee".

    It appears pretty clear to me that Google is illegally calling employees "contractors" so they can be denied perks and benefits. Just like IBM was, and just like Microsoft was.
  • Re:Bloody hell ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Calydor (739835) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:13PM (#41073845)

    You can filter it out when you get to see it every now and then.

    Imagine having to watch one video after the other of people being maimed or killed, animals being abused, children being abused, most of them with a laugh track attached, and you have to do this for an average of forty hours a week for a year.

    No, I doubt you would be able to just 'filter it out' in the long run, and if you ARE able to do that you're seriously not someone I want to know IRL. Humans are supposed to have emotions and empathy; a lack of both would be shown by being completely unaffected by such a job.

  • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:14PM (#41073867) Homepage

    This is why companies love independent contractors for this sort of job.

    There are plenty of studies that show us just how very little self-awareness and self-control the typical person actually has. Virtually everybody thinks they're made of stronger mettle than the other guy; virtually everybody thinks they can handle pretty much anything life could throw at them. Nobody wants to believe that they're the person who'd crack under pressure; nobody wants to believe that they're the person who would keep walking past a mugging. People tend to think that the flaws and limitations of the human race are things that apply primarily to other people.

    Successful companies know this; manipulating people is a key part of how a company becomes successful in the first place. Google knows that this kind of work will eventually destroy the mental health of the person performing the work. Why would they shoulder the responsibility for dealing with this fallout when they have a nigh limitless supply of perfectly unremarkable human beings who think they're strong enough to hack it?

    Note that I don't condone this behavior in the least; I find it reprehensible. But we live in a world where personal responsibility, level playing fields, and common sense are sacrosanct, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. Everybody thinks they're David; nobody ever considers the odds that they're one of the countless schmucks Goliath laid out before his ultimate fight.

  • by jeko (179919) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:22PM (#41073967)

    The shrinks call it "the Just World" hypothesis.

    When told a story about how something bad happened to a little child -- loss of a cookie, for example -- children in studies begin to imagine something similar happening to them. This causes mental discomfort, and they begin to look for ways this would NOT have happened to them. In the vast majority of cases, the children decide the cookie was lost because the victim either did something wrong or was something wrong (a bad child), so since the tested child is not bad and does not intend to do something wrong, then nothing bad will ever happen to them. The world is good, and only good things will happen to good children.

    If you know a kid, try it yourself. Keep the story small -- lost a cookie, lost a toy -- so you don't traumatize the kid. :-) You'll be amazed at the lengths the kid goes to to insulate himself from the possibility.

    You see this manifest in a million different ways in the adult world. Only bad girls get raped. Welfare cases are taking all our money. All car crashes were caused by stupid people. Unfortunate people are just "unlucky," and my luck is good.

    Nurb432 doesn't like the thought that his job could use him up, break him, and then just throw him away. He tells himself stories about why this won't happen to him. He's not weak-minded. He's not weak. He's in demand. He manages his career wisely. He's the ant surrounded by grasshoppers. He's the Little Red Hen, and he'll laugh come winter.

    Hint that Winter is Coming for all of us, and he won't thank you.

  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:23PM (#41073979) Journal

    Damn, you just (re)discovered another right that corps have over individuals. When Corps do strange nasty things, they can siphon it off to "lower level managers" and disclaim it. Everything and anything an Individual does becomes part of their record.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:25PM (#41073997)

    I'd think pediatric surgeons would be good candidates for such a job. They have empathy, but they have seen all that crap up-close, for the most part. Beaten kids, raped kids, systematically malnourished and otherwise neglected and abused kids, kids with amputations from farm machinery, etc. A friend of mine has been at it for almost two decades and she still cries every now and then, but not always at work. She cries when she sees perfectly normal, healthy kids. She is not psychopathic by any stretch of imagination. It's a job. Humans are the cruelest of the animals. Get over it or go crazy, your pick. Getting over it is not psychopathic, neither is it lacking empathy. Empathy doesn't mean you have to lose your wits every time you see abuse...

  • by jeko (179919) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:33PM (#41074115)

    Agreed with a little help afterwards, you could pull ahead of it such that "nothing can shock you ever again". They do it in the Military all the time, though in a more physical style.

    The U.S. Army Reports Record High Suicide Rates for July []

    Experts: Vets' PTSD, violence a growing problem []

    Maybe not.

  • by Formorian (1111751) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:40PM (#41074211)

    Just from my experience, i'm computer forensic investigator but not for police. However, i work with many ex cops and state police.

    Few days once in a blue moon fine. But hypothetically the state police have had a bunch of these cases that I'm aware of. When I'm doing my thing if I run across CP i have to stop my investigation and turn it over to state police immediately. Am i'm not just talking about the CP you can Hash value out(known CP DL'd or w/e). Talking in my 5 years here, we've had 4 dealing with actual like abuse, personal pictures. And i don't deal with anything closely related to CP.

    I'm sorry just even thinking about that/picturing it is horrifying to me anyways. If i had to see images all the time on that subject. Forget that.

  • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:45PM (#41074257)

    Actually psychopaths are very good at adapting. Even though they wouldnt feel bad about kittens being eviscerated, they know the society expects them to, and they 'learn' to feel bad about it (or show that they feel bad about it). Most psychopaths learn at an early childhood stage, what they society expects and adapt (though you would expect their base instincts to come out depending on the circumstances (and also whether they did had a proper childhood, that trained them properly)).

  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:46PM (#41074273) Homepage Journal
    Well... they're only seeing the aftermath—the videos are generally the actual injuries and abuses. You don't experience the dreadful anticipation leading up to the act itself, even in surgery. Dehumanizing patients' bodies and only thinking about the flesh involved as (for example) some machine that needs servicing is an important part of how surgeons cope with their work (and it makes, e.g., hands or heads harder to stomach.)
  • by Kalriath (849904) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:46PM (#41074285)

    And if a human were composed of multiple distinct entities, they could do that too! In fact, courts routinely allow this defense, called "Insanity". And the human can escape punishment also by going into therapy for rehabilitation - and for bonus points receives sympathy rather than condemnation from the general public for the original heinous action!

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:49PM (#41074337) Homepage

    Actually, as a necessary survival skill, the societally-functional psychopath/sociopath learns better than most people exactly what empathic reaction can be expected from a given situation. He wouldn't *feel* upset by the video but he'd understand on an intellectual level that watching baby animals being harmed upsets other people.

    The big problem with assigning the job to a psychopath is that once you get past the gut check, true depravity tends to be creative and interesting. You really don't want to show a psychopath creative and interesting things that you'd prefer he not do.

  • by GuldKalle (1065310) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @04:57PM (#41074439)

    They don't have to conceal their enjoyment. They just have to flag the "good" stuff.

  • by radon28 (593565) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:09PM (#41074583)
    It can get far, far worse than that.
  • Re:A weak mind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:34PM (#41074865)

    If you can look at that sort of image and compartmentalize it as "just work," a "bunch of pixels on the screen," something is very wrong with you.

    Anyone not like you must be defective! You didn't cry enough when you saw that image, you sociopath!

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:36PM (#41074889) Homepage Journal

    Only if they are weak and had no business there in the first place.

  • by elucido (870205) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:46PM (#41074997) []

    The 2-year old article I linked also explains that all Google content reviewers are on one-year contract because of the nature of the work and have access to counseling. From TFA it seems many of these reviewers got the false impression that they would be hired fulltime after completing the one year. Considering that Google seem to have pretty tough hiring process, I'm not surprised that very few of these reviewers get hired fulltime. Their managers must be filthy liars though.

    Not getting hired full time would probably piss me off more than anything else. If I had to sacrifice doing a job like that and got duped then I would be pissed.
    I guess that means I have empathy for the employees.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:52PM (#41075061)

    Few people's backgrounds can immune you from everything you find.

    After our spam filter stopped an important message, we took turns sorting emails for a few months until we got the filter tuned.

    Trust me, it's not just kids/animals/fetish stuff. I went home many days feeling very disturbed. It bothers me to this day to remember, and I'm not at all a prude/religious person.

    Trust me, there are things you just don't want to know about.

  • by shogun (657) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @05:55PM (#41075101)

    Is that a spelling error or not? As 'effect' is quite accurate in this case...

  • I have a friend that works in the state crime lab and yeah...there are some really sicking fucking individuals out there. The only way he is able to do his job is the state pays for him to have a therapist who he "data dumps" to but no matter how many times he tries to get me to work there...fuck no, oh FUCK NO. Not enough brain bleach in the world to have to actually look at that kind of shit 5 days a damned week, no fucking way.

    I feel sorry for the dude in TFA because talking to my friend I can only imagine the kind of sicko shit he had to look at every. damned. day. What is seen can't be unseen folks and some of the horror stories told to be by my friend....lets just say imagine the absolute sickest thing you can, then crank that up to 11.

  • by jandrese (485) <> on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @06:19PM (#41075383) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that the job makes normal people suicidal.
  • by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @08:15PM (#41076407) Homepage Journal

    I'd say you could use some therapy.

  • by socceroos (1374367) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @09:30PM (#41076971)
    I tend to agree with him - on a certain level. There are some life experiences that do need to be dealt with - I don't dispute that, but as a whole, Western society has grown soft. So oozy soft that any day now you're going to be walked all over by someone who has real balls.
  • by psiclops (1011105) on Tuesday August 21, 2012 @09:48PM (#41077079)

    If looking at kiddie-porn, or beheading, or whatever gory pics can made someone so f*cked up that he has to get a therapy I'll say that this guy is already f*cked up _before_ he got the job

    you clearly lack basic knowledge of psychology.

  • by RajivSLK (398494) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:28AM (#41077901)

    What do you mean walked all over? This isn't lord of the flies. If someone is jerk I don't include them in my social circle and they certainly wouldn't be employed where I work. If they act violent I call the police. If they try and harm me in some other way I call a lawyer.

    Can you give me an example of how someone with balls can "walk all over" a soft person in modern western society? (Without ending up in jail or the defendant in a lawsuit)

  • by happy_place (632005) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:25AM (#41080057) Homepage
    It is a common misconception to see a person seeking help through therapy as weak. This is a falsehood. One who seeks help, admits weakness, is a person of strength and should be praised. What's interesting about the story is how viewing the material affected how he saw the world. I applaud the fellow for sharing his experience. I knew these positions existed, but was unaware of its toll. It sounds like a real grind that no amount of free meals and cool corporate logos can really compensate for.

"Probably the best operating system in the world is the [operating system] made for the PDP-11 by Bell Laboratories." - Ted Nelson, October 1977