'Dirtiest' job on the web is bright spot for BPOs in Philippines

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 09 2018 10:32 AM | Updated as of Feb 13 2018 04:51 PM

MANILA - Kenneth's stomach turned when he saw the image of a cadaver being raped, but kept scrolling down for more gruesome images, doing one of the world's dirtiest but higher-paying jobs that has taken hold in the world's outsourcing capital.

Thousands of Filipinos work as moderators, removing images of sex, terrorism, suicide and terrorism from select websites. For home-based Kenneth, the paycheck can run up to P100,000 per month or roughly 4 times the starting pay of a call center worker.

"Pinaka-worse na nakita ko ‘yung necrophilia, naka-bukas 'yung katawan ng tao pero inaano ‘yung cadaver. Photo lang siya, pero grabe," Kenneth told ABS-CBN News. He asked that his real name be withheld to protect his privacy.

(The worst was necrophilia. The person was raping the cadaver. It was just a photo but it's too much.)

Sex videos are "light" fare when moderating content, Kenneth said, adding, "Mayroon ding naliligo sa sariling dugo, tinaga ‘yung ulo kita yung utak."

(There are bodies bathed in their own blood, their skulls hacked to reveal their brains.)

CJ, a father of two, said seeing too much nudity for hours numbed his sex drive.

"May times na lagi ka nakakakita ng bastos, dumadating 'yung point na may pagkukulang ka na sa asawa mo," he told ABS-CBN News, asking as well that his real identity be withheld.

(Seeing sexual content all the time. It will come to a point that you will have shortcomings to your wife.)

OUTSOURCING HUB

A young, computer-literate, social-media savvy workforce that’s in touch with the Western culture has made the Philippines a prime location for content moderation.

Some big companies, which offer content moderation services, provide stress debriefing and counselling for their employees, underlining the need to buffer the psychological effect of content moderation.

Kenneth said group counselling also helps them de-stress. 

“Sa team naman malaki ang tulong ng support group. Ito every Monday nagkikita kita kami so at least nakakahinga kami sa trabaho at sa stress,” he said.

Dirtiest Job

Another content moderator, Perry, said he once saw a "fisting" video involving an elderly woman alongside videos of people hurting themselves during sex.

"Sa ginagawa ko, ang gaan sa pakiramdam pag 'yung mga bata nailalayo mo sila sa mga bagay na hindi nila dapat ginagawa o nakikita, napipigilan mo sila," Perry said.

(In my job, I am relieved to know that I am helping keep children away from things that they shouldn't be doing or things that they shouldn't be seeing.)

Knowing that he serves as a firewall for children against offensive content, Perry said had no plans to switch jobs.

CJ, the father of 2, said it was his "responsibility as a human being" to keep sexual predators off the internet.

Content moderation is seen to expand as artificial intelligence threatens to displace thousands of call center jobs.

Industry experts say, the opportunities are endless since artificial intelligence will always require human intervention.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia warned in January that artificial intelligence in outsourcing will be a "reality" in 3 to 5 years.

According to the most recent gross domestic product data, miscellaneous services, which includes BPO, grew 9.2 percent in 2017 from the previous year, compared to 19.8 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Kenneth, the home-based content moderator, recently celebrated his sixth year on the job and has no plans of getting a new one despite the stress.

"Work is work, walang madaling trabaho. Lahat 'yan mayroon tayong struggles, mayroong stress, lahat 'yan may learning process," he said.

(Work is work. No job is easy. All of us have work struggles. Everything has a learning process.)