DOXA 2018 review: The Cleaners


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      In office spaces in Manila, dead-eyed workers make their way through a daily quota of images and videos uploaded to social-media accounts, deleting anything that exceeds a haphazard set of standards, traumatized in some cases by endless images of child sexual abuse, snuff clips, and live-streamed suicides.

      These are your anonymous content moderators, outsourced by Silicon Valley giants more invested in saying the right things than reckoning with their appalling dereliction of ethics. On one level it’s a parade of humans who are in way over their heads, from Filipinos desperate to avoid a life of scavenging landfills to clueless U.S. senators pointlessly quizzing hardly less vacuous Facebook, Google, and Twitter lawyers, applying phantom principles to politically shaped falsehoods, achieving nothing in the end besides theatre. In the real world, we see Syrians and Rohingya among those who are failed—the word doesn’t really do justice—by a global “connectivity” miscreation that none of us can possibly understand. In short: social media has produced insoluble problems so inconceivably vast and complicated that they paralyze the mind. Deep nausea aside, The Cleaners is a very noble effort to backspace us into reality.