Book review: We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets, translated by Emma Rault

Synopsis

To be a content moderator is to see humanity at its worst ― but Kayleigh needs money. That’s why she takes a job working for a social media platform whose name she isn’t allowed to mention. Her job: reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and deciding which need to be removed.

It’s gruelling work. Kayleigh and her colleagues spend all day watching horrors and hate on their screens, evaluating them with the platform’s ever-changing moderating guidelines. Yet Kayleigh is good at her job, and in her colleagues she finds a group of friends, even a new girlfriend ― and for the first time in her life, Kayleigh’s future seems bright.

But soon the job seems to change them all, shifting their worlds in alarming ways. How long before the moderators own morals bend and flex under the weight of what they see?

We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets is a chilling, powerful and gripping story about who or what determines our world view. Examining the toxic world of content moderation, the novel forces us to ask: what is right? What is real? What is normal? And who gets to decide?

Review

This is a short little novella that gives us a glimpse into the lives of content moderators for vast and faceless social media corporations that don’t much care for their employees.

We follow our narrator and a group of their colleagues from the start of their careers as content moderators to the end – though these are short-lived! This group witness a variety of reported content each day, from the more tame posts such as spam and pornography, to conspiracy theories, to terrorism, abuse, violence and more. The book explores how this work takes a toll on mental health and how it affects people’s lives and relationships, perhaps without them even realising it’s happening. It looks at how when you’re faced with this kind of content day in and day out, the lines may start to blur on what is ‘normal’ and what is offensive and extreme. It also took a look at toxic work environments, and how that toxicity doesn’t end when you clock off each day, but in fact seeps into your personal life and relationships too.

Bervoets clearly did a lot of research into the psychological effects of being a content moderator, and I appreciated that there was a list of sources at the back of this one to back up the ideas discussed.

Overall I enjoyed this one. You’ll never normally hear me complain that a book was too short, however, I do wish this one had been extended further as I found the topic fascinating but not quite explored enough for me to feel fully satisfied. Bervoets writing is easy to read and I am hoping that more of her work gets translated in the future! I also think the translation, by Emma Rault, in this one was really well done, it flowed perfectly.

Ad-pr product from Picador.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

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