Care Work and Endurance. Lessons from Feminist Activism in Platform Work

By Julia Kloiber

March 8, 2023. I am standing in the lobby of the labor union ver.di in Berlin, eagerly awaiting a group of 50 content moderators. Today marks the first Content Moderators Summit, aimed at  networking and developing collective strategies for better working conditions. Many of the moderators will be meeting for the first time.

As I wait, I try to imagine the people who will walk through the door. I know their work is precarious, and they face exploitation and psychological strain every day. In my mind, they appear as an anonymous mass. I wonder if our psyche tricks us into seeing those who suffer injustice as a distant, faceless crowd.

Then, suddenly, they’re before me. Sakine from Iran, who studied philosophy in three countries. Amir, who worked for international aid organizations before coming to Germany. Omar, who grew up in Germany and freelanced before becoming a moderator. Cengiz, who is completing his PhD alongside this job, among many others.

Today, as I write these lines, I know some of them well. We have spent evenings in shisha bars, shared many cups of coffee, exchanged thoughts and experiences. The anonymous mass has transformed into individuals whose stories I know and whom I greatly admire.

Looking back, I wonder what they expected when they walked into the ver.di lobby, on the invitation of the union and three civil society organizations, including my own, SUPERRR Lab. While the roles of unions are clear, the contributions of civil society organizations are often less obvious. What can they achieve in labor struggles and organizing, what is their role?

At SUPERRR, we follow feminist principles and values like care, collaboration, inclusion, power-sharing, and justice. For me, working in a feminist way means to be constantly reassessing our work, structures, and values. I have learned a lot from the content moderators and labor rights activists, which I want to reflect on here.

After the Hype: When Stories Lose Their Novelty

Digitalization is only shiny until the precarious working conditions underpinning its operations are revealed. As AI proves to be human-made, flawed, and driven by capitalist mechanisms, our assumptions are tested.

As we learn about the workers who moderate and analyze data, filtering out illegal, violent, and rule-breaking content, the once-impenetrable world of AI becomes tangible. Invisible workers make themselves visible by organizing, and sharing their stories of struggle against powerful tech giants.

In Germany, and across Europe, these narratives have attracted attention for the harsh working conditions they describe. Media outlets seek out emotive, personal stories to attract clicks, shares, and likes—“sofa solidarity“.

The year of the Content Moderators Summit saw a surge of interest in these stories. Just over a year later, media interest has faded. Journalists tell me the story’s no longer newsworthy—the fight for labor rights and systemic change garners little interest.

This is where civil society’s role—to stay engaged and persevere in pushing for change—becomes crucial.

Perseverance That Brings Change

Civil society organizations are united by the noble goal of making themselves obsolete by achieving their political and social objectives. Achievement means systemic, long-term, and sustainable solutions. For platform work, it involves scrutinizing legislation, examining labor laws and filing complaints against violations.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint—which also means keeping the issue on the political agenda. Quick wins bring fleeting attention and alleviate symptoms, but hard wins that drive systemic change and have a lasting impact take time. Hard wins must be fought on many levels, by multiple actors.

The works councils are one of these levels. I have immense respect for their members who fight for change day by day, taking small, tedious steps in the face of innumerable obstacles. They recognize that problems must be tackled at the root, that patience is needed to achieve long-term success.

C for Care Work

Feminist work in the context of labor organizing involves performing care work. This means being present and providing support where it is needed, not just checking off policy steps and following strategies. It means listening when everyone else has moved on.

Building trust doesn’t happen overnight. But without its foundations, fruitful and long-term collaboration is not possible. When one person runs out of steam, the other is there to support them, and vice versa. That’s how good partnerships work.

Care work also includes sharing resources, such as fiscal support and time. Like data work, care work often occurs behind the scenes. Part of a feminist practice is making this work visible to give it the recognition it deserves.

Not my department

„Not my department,“ is a phrase I’ve often heard used for platform work—not from the labor organizers and workers, but from civil society organizations, politicians, and funders.


Platform work doesn’t fit neatly into one specific field. It lies at the intersections of digital rights, labor rights, and community organizing. A feminist agenda deliberately targets these intersections, by bringing together diverse actors, including workers, unions, organizations working on strategic legislation, researchers, human rights activists, tech policy experts, policymakers, politicians… The list is long.


Building bridges across disciplines, engaging in collective learning processes, and viewing the topic from unfamiliar perspectives are key when it comes to driving change.

Dismantling Power Structures

At the core of feminist work is the dismantling of power structures and the redistribution of power. For platform work this applies not only to the Big Tech companies and outsourcing firms, but also within labor struggles, where power structures also persist.

Some voices are louder and more privileged, drowning out those who are multiply marginalized. It’s no coincidence that many of the first press reports in Germany were of cis white male workers. Their stories brought attention to the issue but also diverted it from many other stories within the movement, which remained untold—those of women*, POC, queers, people with disabilities, and others. There isn’t just one story but hundreds of unique ones.

I am grateful to the women in the labor movement for teaching me, for emphasizing intersectionality, and for calling my attention to these issues.

Keeping the Bigger Picture in Mind

The fight for better working conditions is only won when all data workers and content moderators everywhere have good conditions. Focusing on the bigger picture means moving beyond individual battles to build international bridges and foster solidarity.

At SUPERRR, one path we are exploring involves supply chain laws that can have global effects. How can existing German and European regulations export justice instead of injustice, how can colonial patterns be broken?

Better working conditions alone don’t necessarily change larger power structures. Tech companies are increasingly powerful and wealthy, but long-term, they need to change. The rapid spread of hate, extremism, and harmful content wouldn’t exist on the same scale without their business models and addictive algorithms.

Keeping the bigger picture in mind means unpacking the full complexity of these problems to address their roots. Shaking the system means breaking the power of the Big Tech companies, using antitrust regulation and competition laws.

Workers often say that their fight isn’t just for themselves, but for future generations, who shouldn’t have to suffer as they have. This is the biggest picture.


The paradox of progress is that, in hindsight, we only see the results, not the struggles that led to them. It’s why the world ahead seems so daunting. We all stand on the shoulders of countlesslabor organizers and feminists who have fought for a better world. Much has been achieved—and there is still much more to accomplish.

What impressed me, that day at ver.di, when it all began for me, were the people. The space we created for reflecting, discussing, imagining, and dreaming together —when we looked beyond the present, into a better future. I want more of those moments, where we move away from damage control. Or as the feminist Gloria Steinem put it: „Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.“

About the Author

Julia Kloiber

Julia Kloiber is the co-founder of the feminist organization Superrr Lab. She has launched several projects exploring how digital technology can benefit society, including the Prototype Fund, a public fund for public interest tech, and the civic tech network Code for Germany. Her current work focuses on alternative future narratives for equitable digitalization. In 2023, she began collaborating with social media content moderators to improve their working conditions. She recently published a magazine with unfiltered stories by Kenyan content moderators.

Julia Kloiber serves on the advisory board for the Digital Strategy of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport, is a member of the supervisory board at DigitalService, and sits on the advisory board of the German Postcode Lottery. She also writes a regular column for MIT Technology Review Germany.

Logo of the Superrr Lab. On a pink circle "SUPER" is written in blue with 9 red R's around it.
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