PODCAST| Matt Micucci interviews Moritz Riesewieck, co-director of the film The Cleaners.
To listen to the interview, click on the ► icon on the right, just above the picture
Martin Riesewieck presented his documentary The Cleaners, which he co-directed with Hans Block, at the 2018 One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. The Cleaners was the opening film of this year’s festival and screened at two different venues in Prague, Czech Republic, at almost simultenously. Both screenings were also sold out, and the question and answer sessions that followed the film at them revealed that this is certainly a documentary that will get people talking and start debate. That, of course, is the aim of the filmmakers, who examine the little talked about issue of the people who rid our social media of inappropriate content. The subject is problematic, and as Riesewieck highlights in this interview, the question is, “we are so worried about our democracy in the analog world; why aren’t we as concerned about the digital world?” The Cleaners specifically focuses on this activity and the way in which it operates in the Philippines, which is a hotspot of the industry and is used by the main social media companies. In this interview, Riesewieck gives us a detailed overview of the situation and why it is indeed time to raise awareness about and to start talking about it. He also talks about whether he believes the film will cause some type of backlash and anger people, especially once it is made available on the internet, and much more.
The Cleaners: Any video can be uploaded to the web through social media. This does not, however, mean that all such material will remain there. Tens of thousands of “cleaners” work behind the scenes to ensure that only approved content is accessible to users. The role of cleaners, hired by companies such as Facebook or Google, is to search for and delete inappropriate content. Although they work undercover, the filmmakers have managed to contact some of the “content moderators” working in the Filipino capital of Manila. Their experiences include the appealing ordeal of finding child pornography or recordings of Islamic murders. The gradual devastation of the moderators’ psyches is not the only problem within this profession. Another flaw is that content is often deemed inappropriate if it does not suit the governments of individual countries or if, for instance, it tells about the reality of wartime conflicts in an alarming manner. At which point does the effort to prevent the spread of evil become dangerous censorship?