From Data Workers to Data Workers – Precarious Working Conditions in Content Moderation and their Consequences for Workers

This podcast (GER with EN subtitles) discusses the struggles of content moderators at Telus International in Essen, Germany, highlighting poor pay, mentally taxing tasks, and lack of support. The workers seek recognition of their job as a skilled occupation to strengthen their demands for fair treatment and pay.

By Lais, Layla & Omar

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Make sure to enable captions.  Available in EN, DE.

Trigger Warning

We have tried to avoid explicit depictions of violence so that the podcast remains accessible to everyone. Still, a few comments and depictions can be triggering and we advise listeners’ discretion.

In our podcast, we share real stories from content moderators. Based on our own experiences and multiple group discussions, we provide unfiltered accounts of what life is like on the “production floor” and the challenges we face each working day. We discuss which issues require urgent action and how to tackle them. We hope that through our podcast we can draw attention to the desolate situation of workers in this sector. Not only do we have to cope with disturbing content such as suicide, self-harm and child abuse on a daily basis, but we must do so for wages that do not compensate the mental toll of our work and while being afforded only a few days of holiday for recovery.

It is unacceptable that these working conditions are the standard in a whole sector, especially in a rich country like Germany. We feel left behind by regulators and politicians, and hope that our podcast will raise social attention and help foster change.  Our motivation to record this podcast and fight back collectively comes from our wish to improve labor conditions for ourselves and for our many colleagues who are directly affected.

Due to our non-disclosure agreements, it was necessary to mask our voices and conceal our identities. Not everyone who actively works as a content moderator can afford to publicly oppose their employer, as many of our colleagues have residence permits that are tied to their workplace. Despite this fabricated dependency, our podcast serves as a means to project a collective voice. 

The most important demands that we distilled from the discussion in the podcast are the need to improve working conditions, as well as have our work acknowledged as an officially recognized profession. In addition, we highlight the fact that failing to support our mental health is not only unsustainable for us as individuals, but also for the state. In our company alone, there are thousands of people who will need to turn to the state for help dealing with the long-term consequences of our precarious employment if conditions stay the way they are.

Recommended citation:

Anonymous authors (2024). The Dark Side of Social Media – An excursion into precarious working conditions of content moderation and their consequences for workers. [Research support by M. Miceli, A. Dinika, L. Sachenbacher, C. Salim Wagner, & K. Kauffman]. Retrieved from

About the Authors


Layla has been working as a content moderator in Germany for the past five years. Reviewing and managing user-generated content involves identifying and removing inappropriate or harmful content that does not meet platforms’ guidelines. She believes that improvements in the working conditions are necessary to ensure the well-being and effectiveness of data workers, including more flexible work environments and mental support.


Omar has been working at Telus International since 2017. For him, the most important thing is to establish content moderation as officially recognized occupational work, so that after working for several years one does not have a gap in one’s CV because of lacking recognition. Additionally, this would allow workers like him to demand adequate wages and numbers of vacation days, as opposed to the bare minimum that is currently company policy.


For the past 6 years, Lais has been employed as a content moderator at Telus International in Essen, overseeing platforms to identify and swiftly address any breaches of guidelines by users, ensuring neither the individuals involved nor others suffer any harm. Their main goal is to cultivate a user-friendly environment, necessitating work operations to run continuously, 24/7, as is the case with Lais’ team. Having dedicated many years to this sector, he has come to understand the significance and the hefty responsibility this work carries. As a result of this burden, Lais finds it crucial to discuss and bring attention to this line of work. Prevailing conditions have historically imposed a silence around content moderation tasks, hindering societal appreciation for the work moderators do.

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