For years, Facebook supervisors employed by outside contractors have sought to expose poor working conditions, and their opposition has grown louder during the pandemic as many have been forced back into the office with little or no safety net. But the Spanish-language supervisors say they face worse treatment than their English-speaking colleagues.
In the Richardson, Texas, office of Genpact, a Meta subcontractor, Spanish-language supervisors told BuzzFeed News that they have been required to report to the office since April 2021, despite the emergence of both the Delta and Omicron variants that have caused a spike in COVID infections across the United States. During this time, they said, coordinators reviewing English content were allowed to go through the office in three-month cycles.
“Being in the office…was nothing short of a nightmare,” said one of the supervisors.
BuzzFeed News spoke to three members of Genpact’s Mexican market team who described a pattern of unfair treatment of Spanish-speaking brokers. All of these individuals spoke on condition of anonymity as Genpact required them to sign nondisclosure agreements and feared for their jobs. They said that in addition to reporting to the office for the past nine months while their English-speaking counterparts can work from home, Spanish-language brokers are held to unrealistic performance standards and are not compensated for working in two languages, which they say is more time-consuming. In addition, they are facing the pressure of managing a Facebook market that has long been criticized as unsupervised amid the threat of active COVID cases.
Genpact spokeswoman Danielle D’Angelo declined to comment on all of the specific allegations made by Spanish-language brokers, including the claim that the Mexican market team was not allowed to work from home while other teams were switched.
“We would like to emphasize that employee safety is our top priority, and that has been and will continue to be so throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said D’Angelo. “Any return to office decisions made in line with client needs is made in accordance with applicable safety and health best practices and in accordance with local regulations. At all of our workplace locations, including our office in Richardson, TX, we follow best-in-class safety standards, which It includes frequent antigen tests.”
On Thursday, managers at Genpact’s Richardson site were reported to have told the company’s agents that it had called off plans for a 50% reopening on January 31 due to the release of Omicron. The Spanish-language mediators said this change does not affect them, and they will continue to inform the office. Genpact declined to comment on when it intends to reopen, and in what capacity.
In late June, Genpact’s leadership sent an email to one of the English-language supervision groups allowed to rotate out of the office, thanking them for their “continued dedication and response.” The email said they will be back to work from home on July 26.
Spanish-language brokers told BuzzFeed News that they had not received such an email. Days after the supervisors were told in English that they could go home,[managers] He told us we were on a niche queue, and that our job couldn’t take place out of the office,” one moderator said, noting that the Mexican market often includes a flood of graphic content privately tweaking. Facebook declined to comment on the complaints of Spanish-language moderators, citing BuzzFeed News to Genpact — a strategy I’ve run into over and over when addressing the concerns of the people who make their living managing Facebook content.
Since returning to Richardson’s office, employees have grown increasingly concerned for their safety. Brokers told BuzzFeed News that 30 COVID cases for employees were reported by management in December, and that no updates have been communicated since then. Meanwhile, workers say their colleagues are continuing to test positive for COVID, citing two cases on one floor last week. Genpact declined to comment on the number of COVID cases in her office, as well as how frequently employees have reported such cases.
On December 22, dozens of Spanish-language supervisors left their offices en masse after learning through a grapevine that a sick colleague may have exposed them to the virus. Since workers claim that Genpact does not currently offer supervisors paid sick leave, they have used the PTO to isolate themselves. Genpact declined to comment on whether supervisors receive paid sick leave.
Although called the Mexican market, this team reviews Facebook and Instagram content posted in Spanish by users in much of Latin America as well, the brokers said. As of 2018, there are 84 million Facebook users in Mexico, and tens of millions use WhatsApp. In the Latin and Spanish-speaking communities, Facebook has been a powerful carrier of disinformation, shaped the public’s perception of topics such as COVID, electoral politics, and Black Lives Matter. But researchers who study misinformation told the Guardian that compared to English-language posts, harmful content published in Spanish is removed less frequently.
Members told BuzzFeed News that Genpact began building this team in early 2020, initially hiring volunteers from other existing divisions.
One moderator told BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation for speaking out about the company’s internal affairs.
Employees allege that mediators not fluent in Spanish were forced into this role as a result, and that many failed to meet performance expectations and were subsequently fired. Currently, the Mexican market team consists of about 50 people.
But even workers who speak fluent Spanish feel battered by what they describe as unreasonable standards. For example, moderators are expected to maintain an 85% accuracy rate while sticking to a 66-second “processing time,” or the time frame for making decisions about pieces of content. While these limits may be reasonable for a single language, switching between dual languages may take longer. Moderators say they must translate Facebook’s guidelines, which are only posted in English, into Spanish before they can be applied. They added that a large number of posts by Mexicans and other users across Latin America also contain English, forcing them to switch languages regularly. Genpact declined to comment on how Spanish language brokers are evaluated and paid. Facebook did not respond to a query about the language whose guidance is provided.
The pandemic has caused Facebook supervisors at many outsourcing companies to organize around issues such as paid sick leave, hazard pay, and a dismissal system that divides contract workers from paid tech employees. Last week, Accenture suddenly allowed its Facebook moderators to work from home after it originally asked them to return to the office, following a BuzzFeed News inquiry.
Although Facebook has not publicly disclosed how many users it has across Latin America, its platform and apps serve as vital amenities for the citizens of many of these countries. The pressure is being felt by Genpact’s Spanish-language mediators, who said that despite the enormous importance of their jobs, they are the smallest team in the office.
Facebook spokeswoman Kadia Koroma said the company uses “a combination of technology and people to keep content that breaks our rules out of our platform, and while AI has made progress in this area, people are an essential part of our safety efforts.” The company said that Spanish is one of the most used languages on Facebook and that reviews are in Spanish 24 hours a day at several locations around the world.
Mediators who returned to their posts in April assumed this was due to Mexico’s June midterm elections. “We thought, OK, let’s let the election pass,” said one of the mediators. Throughout 2021, English-speaking brokers have been rotating in and out. The Mexican market team thought it would be the same for them.
They added, “Then a week before our supposed exit date, we received an email saying, ‘Thank you for the hard work, but unfortunately the Mexican market is going to stay in place.’” Facebook declined to comment on how it interacted with subcontractors that operate certain temperance markets.
“We know these jobs can be challenging, which is why we are working closely with our partners to assess how best to support these teams,” Koroma said.