ON SCREEN: A still from the 2018 documentary The Cleaners by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck.
ON SCREEN: A still from the 2018 documentary The Cleaners by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck. Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion

MOVIE REVIEW: The Cleaners digs into online censors' lives

IT's the stuff of nightmares. You are a young, up-and-coming smart person in a young, up and coming country, you study hard and, despite all the setbacks you face (or because of them) you complete your education and you get a job with a multinational social media company.

But when you start working you realise you are doing the company's dirty work: censoring the content others publish on the net.

You need to get though thousands of disturbing, awful, satirical, sexually-charged and sometimes disgusting images every day, and if you make one mistake - your boss has told you - you can start a war.

This 88-minute German documentary travels to the Philippines.

While the policies on permissible content are written in Silicon Valley, the global headquarter for content moderation is in the city of Manila.

Tens of thousands of young people are employed here as "digital scavengers," moderating thousands-upon-thousands of troubling images and videos during the course of a ten-hour shift.

A confronting experience described by one moderator hits home quickly: she studied not to end up scavenging real trash from the tips, only to end up scavenging online content from the bottom of the online bin.

Yet underneath their work lies profound questions around what makes an image art or propaganda and what defines journalism.

Were they ready for such a job?

This film struggles to connect with its subjects, who look lonelier than ever during the interviews, but brings out a truth needed and to be shared... even if online.



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