This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a former TikTok moderator. He spoke anonymously as he signed a strict confidentiality agreement before training. Insider verified his identity and wage with documentation. The following below has been edited for length and clarity.
We couldn’t say “TikTok.” They were always “the client.” Between my work friends, it was “TikTok,” but officially, it was always just “the client.”
I worked for Majorel, one of the companies that TikTok uses to outsource its content moderation. I was a moderator for TikTok’s Spanish and Latin American regional content for over two years.
At first, I liked it; it was interesting watching videos. But after a few months, every day became the same, always the same. After a year, I started to develop burnout symptoms.
The targets the company set for moderators were high, around 1,000-odd videos per day. Even after the news that TikTok had added videos of five minutes or longer, they didn’t adapt their targets. I didn’t want to work. I was depressed. I saw Majorel’s on-site psychologist, who was part of its BeWell program. 
I left Majorel almost four months ago, and it took me at least one or two months to recover. I feel much better now. The stress and the depression lasted after I quit, then I feared losing my new job for a stupid thing. With TikTok, you could lose your job over just one video. We are not robots; we can lose our concentration. If it happens a few times that the moderator has a video on their screen that should be tagged with an important tag — porn, suicide, death — but the moderator doesn’t tag anything, and they get fired. I’m only just starting to see that my new company is different.
By the time I had left, every member of my team was gone except for one. All the others had changed jobs after one year or so. People don’t tend to stay at that job for very long.
We sometimes had to work seven days in a row; the company would decide all of our shifts. We were a big team, so there was no need to do that; not in this kind of job, where you need to be mentally clear. You have to rest. Each shift, I’d see maybe five or ten gross videos, stuff that no one wants to see. When you watch a lot of people doing sick things, that affects you a lot.
Actually, even the psychologist said they had to work for seven or more straight days. When my psychologist told me, I was like, “What the fuck?” because you have to help other people, and you can’t do that well if you have to work that much. It makes no sense at all. (Editor’s note: Majorel said its staff approve shifts and days with managers in advance, and that they can only work consecutively for a maximum of six days. A spokesperson for BH Bienestar, which runs the BeWell program, said workers approve their own working schedules.)
The worst I saw was a repost from a Facebook Live video of a guy who died by suicide with a gun. It was very gory, and we had to watch all the content without any kind of blurring or censor. 
When I was in the office, every day, a lot of people would cry. You can imagine how hard it is; I think the job affects at least half the team. It’s very hard for some people.
When we started working from home, the content just as graphic as it was when we were in the office. They started a BeWell program where we had one-to-one sessions with psychologists that we had weekly or monthly, depending on the person. That was a good idea: my psychologist helped me a lot. Some people thought that they didn’t need it or that it was useless, but for me, it was really good. 
TikTok was constantly announcing new policies. They would decide one thing one day, then reverse it later. I don’t think they even know what they are doing. 
I was making about 1,100 euros, or $1,180, per month depending on the tax and if we had work on any holidays. It was very low. It’s not minimum wage, but it’s not a very good salary here in Barcelona. 
The salary was especially poor given how mentally challenging the job was, that’s why I think we deserve more money than that. 
In the office, it was good because we had contact with our team, and we would chat a little bit, and we woud have fun. Working from home, it’s not the same, even if sometimes there is a meeting. Even if we chat a lot, it’s not the same. 
And you’re in a WhatsApp group, so even on your day off, you can’t totally disconnect. 
Even if the company is shit, the people working there, at least a vast majority of them, are good. We don’t have any problem with our team managers; they were always very supportive and helped a lot. 
If I could work there for so long, it was because I had friends there to talk to during the workdays, because spending eight hours just moderating a constant stream of videos would be impossible without any kind of support like what we gave to each other. 
Because to the company, you feel like you’re just another number.
A spokesperson for TikTok said: “Our trust and safety team partners with third-party firms on the critical work of helping to protect the TikTok platform and community, and we strive to promote a caring working environment for our employees and contractors. We continue to develop ways to help moderators feel supported mentally and emotionally.”
Karsten König, EVP global clients and practice lead at Majorel, said: “The health and well-being of our content moderators in Barcelona is our number one priority. We demonstrate this every day by providing 24/7 professional psychological support, together with a comprehensive suite of health and well-being initiatives that receive high praise from our people […] We know that providing a safe and supportive working environment for our content moderators is  key to delivering excellent services for our clients and their customers.”
Miqual Casas, director at BH Bienestar, which runs the BeWell program, said workers approve a work calendar which alternates between weeks of working for three days and seven days. “BH Bienestar complies strictly and at all times with current policies and laws on labor matters,” Casas said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or has had thoughts of harming themself or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations. Help is also available through the Crisis Text Line — just text “HOME” to 741741.
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