Reviews of We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

We Had to Remove This Post

by Hanna Bervoets

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets X
We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets
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  • Published:
    May 2022, 144 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Chloe Pfeiffer
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About this Book

Book Summary

For readers of Leila Slimani's The Perfect Nanny or Ling Ma's Severance: a tight, propulsive, chilling novel by a rising international star about a group of young colleagues working as social media content monitors - reviewers of violent or illegal videos for an unnamed megacorporation - who convince themselves they're in control...until the violence strikes closer to home.

Kayleigh needs money. That's why she takes a job as a content moderator 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 grueling work. Kayleigh and her colleagues spend all day watching horrors and hate on their screens, evaluating them with the platform's ever-changing terms of service while a supervisor sits behind them, timing and scoring their assessments. Yet Kayleigh finds a group of friends, even a new love—and, somehow, the job starts to feel okay.

But when her colleagues begin to break down; when Sigrid, her new girlfriend, grows increasingly distant and fragile; when her friends start espousing the very conspiracy theories they're meant to be evaluating; Kayleigh begins to wonder if the job may be too much for them. She's still totally fine, though—or is she?

So what kinds of things did you see?

It's crazy how often people still ask me that, even though it's been sixteen months since I left Hexa. People just won't stop trying, and if my answer doesn't live up to their expectations—too vague, not shocking enough—they simply repeat the question, putting it slightly differently. "But what's the worst thing you ever saw?" Gregory, my new colleague at the museum, asks me.

"So what exactly are we talking about here?" That's my Aunt Meredith, who for years I would only see on the anniversary of Mom's death, but who has suddenly gotten into the habit of calling me on the first Sunday of every month to ask how I'm doing, and oh yeah, what exactly it was that I saw.

"Why don't you choose one video, one image, or one post that really affected you." And there's Dr. Ana. "Tell me what you thought and felt at the time. Go ahead and make it into an image in your head ... Yes, a mental image of yourself sitting there and seeing that...

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Reviews

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Unlike other recent novels that feature the workplace under late capitalism—I'm thinking of The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada, Severance by Ling Ma and The Employees by Olga Ravn, which all satirize the simultaneous life-consuming intensity, drudgery and absurdity of modern office life—WHTRTP is not really a commentary on work. There is a political bent, but it comes across as less about the exploitation of modern contract work and more about the ills of social media technology generally. The book focuses on Kayleigh's romantic relationship with Sigrid, her coworker. She's outrunning the trauma of her previous relationship, with a manipulative ex-girlfriend who is unapologetically responsible for Kayleigh's heaps of credit card debt. In this way, Bervoets makes Kayleigh's debt symbolic as well as literal: she wants to pay it off to escape the vestiges of her abusive relationship...continued

Full Review (814 words).

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(Reviewed by Chloe Pfeiffer).

Media Reviews

Booklist (starred review)
Powerful, discussable, and a harbinger of a voice-in-translation to watch.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Scathing, darkly humorous...The psychological toll inherent to today's workforce, big tech ethics, and viral misinformation—each are examined in turn by Kayleigh's wonderfully snarky, unreliable narration and Bervoets' intimate portrayals of a well-imagined and diverse cast of characters...Bervoets just gets it. This is, unironically, a novel for our time.

Publishers Weekly
Bervoet's fleeting yet magnetic English-language debut offers a glimpse into the world of social media content moderators...Kayleigh is an engaging narrator. The story is brief, but it packs a wallop.

Irish Times
Bervoets' neat dissection of morality is as taut as a thriller, sharp as a slug of ice-cold vodka.

Author Blurb Ian McEwan
The dank underside of social media, its cruelty and delusions, have become, our shared affliction. It needed an accomplished novelist to explore humanely the damage. Hanna Bervoets has richly obliged in this superbly poised, psychologically astute and subtle novel of mental unravelling. At its wonderful, hallucinatory climax, Kayleigh, the shattered protagonist, asks on our behalf the one true question, and the spellbound reader will usefully struggle for an answer.

Author Blurb Kristen Arnett, New York Times-bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things and With Teeth
We Had to Remove This Post is one of the most fascinating books I've read in years. Hanna Bervoets has created an astonishing and compelling cast of characters, drawn together through circumstance, separated by the same. The novel is fast-paced and thrilling, violent and nightmarish and grief-stricken, but also tender and wildly moving. A brilliant peek behind the curtains at what happens when we put our trust in social media. Believe me when I say you've never read anything like it." -

Author Blurb Ling Ma, author of Severance
This novel gives us an acid glimpse into a new form of labor existing today, a job that extracts an immeasurable psychic toll. Fascinating and disturbing.

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Beyond the Book

Content Moderators' Lawsuit Against Facebook (2018)

Person's hand holding phone showing Facebook login screen We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets centers on a group of content moderators for a large social media site, who are technically contract workers employed by a smaller, third-party company. Their story and company are fictionalized, but Bervoets draws heavily on material about a 2018 lawsuit by content moderators against Facebook over their working conditions.

The lawsuit was first filed by Selena Scola, who worked as a Facebook content moderator from June 2017 to March 2018 for a contractor company. Content moderators have to review posts that are flagged for content that violates policies—such as, according to Vice, "hate speech, graphic violence and self harm images and video, nudity and sexual content, bullying"&#...

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