When you post something on the web, can you be sure it stays there? Enter a hidden shadow industry of digital cleaning, where the internet rids itself of what it doesn’t like. Who is controlling what we see… and what we think?
The Cleaners unveils a giant shadow industry of digital censorship in Manila, the world’s largest outsourcing location for content moderation. There tens of thousands of people working in 10-hour shifts on behalf of large Silicon Valley companies to delete incriminating photos and videos from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and more. Complex decisions about censorship or visibility of content are thus outsourced to the “content moderators.” The criteria and guidelines they use are one of the best-kept secrets of Silicon Valley.
The cruelty and the continuous burden of this traumatic work changes the perception and personality of the content moderators. But that’s not all. They are forbidden to talk about their experiences.
In addition to the stories of five content moderators, the film tells of the global impact of online censorship and shows how fake news and hate are spread and amplified through social networks. The utopian vision of a networked global internet community is finally becoming a nightmare when high-ranking former social-network workers provide insights into the mechanisms of the platforms. Through targeted amplification and duplication of all kinds of emotions, the platforms become dangerous accelerators, fueling social and political conflicts and driving the threat of division of our society. (Translation by Google Translate, lightly edited)