Eating Disorder Helpline Fires Staff, Transitions to Chatbot After Unionization

“Motherboard tested the currently public version of Tessa and was told that it was a chatbot off the bat. ‘Hi there, I’m Tessa. I am a mental health support chatbot here to help you feel better whenever you need a stigma-free way to talk – day or night,’”’ the first text read. The chatbot then failed to respond to any texts I sent including ‘I’m feeling down,’ and ‘I hate my body.'”

This report by Chloe Xiang has been published in Vice magazine. It begins:

“Executives at the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) decided to replace hotline workers with a chatbot named Tessa four days after the workers unionized. 

NEDA, the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to eating disorders, has had a helpline for the last twenty years that provided support to hundreds of thousands of people via chat, phone call, and text. ‘NEDA claims this was a long-anticipated change and that AI can better serve those with eating disorders. But do not be fooled—this isn’t really about a chatbot. This is about union busting, plain and simple,’ helpline associate and union member Abbie Harper wrote in a blog post.

According to Harper, the helpline is composed of six paid staffers, a couple of supervisors, and up to 200 volunteers at any given time. A group of four full-time workers at NEDA, including Harper, decided to unionize because they felt overwhelmed and understaffed …”

You can read more from here.

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