Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck
2018 | 1:28:00
Enter a hidden third world shadow industry of digital cleaning, where
the Internet rids itself of what it doesn‘t like. Here we meet five
“digital scavengers”, among thousands of people outsourced from
Silicon Valley, whose job is to delete “inappropriate” content of the
net. In a parallel struggle, we meet people around the globe whose
lives are dramatically affected by online censorship. A typical
“cleaner” must observe and rate thousands of often deeply disturbing
images and videos every day, leading to lasting psychological impacts.
Yet underneath their work lie profound questions around what makes an
image art or propaganda and what defines journalism. Where exactly is
the point of balance for social media to be neither an unlegislated
space nor a forum rife with censorship? THE CLEANERS struggles to come
to terms with this new and disconcerting paradigm. Evolving from a
shared social vision of a global village to a web of fake news and
radicalization, the film charts the rise and fall of social media’s
A typical “cleaner” must observe and rate thousands of often deeply
disturbing images and videos every day, leading to lasting
We already knew that fake news gets pumped around. And also that our
online behaviour determines what gets shown on everyone’s timeline on
social media. But that thousands of Filipino content moderators are
actively deciding every day what actually gets seen on the web, so
that our timelines are pleasant or at least non-violent? This fact was
hidden until recently.
Propaganda or free newscast? With hardened eyes and continually
learning about sex terms and jihadist flags, this immense workforce
decide on thousands of newly placed videos and pictures. In their
revealing debut documentary The Cleaners, Hans Block and Moritz
Riesewieck infiltrate this shadow industry.
The internet is not as neutral and democratic as it pretends.
High-placed tech experts and (ex-)cleaners speak about the need for
and practice of these actions. From conversations with victims of this
censorship, it seems that cleaners help steer the course of history.