Facebook content moderators are suffering from PTSD, lawsuit claims

Desiree Burns
September 25, 2018

A former Facebook Inc contract employee filed a lawsuit in California, alleging that content moderators who face mental trauma after reviewing distressing images on the platform are not being properly protected by the social networking company. Scola, who did the work for about eight months through a contractor, says that she has been formally diagnosed with the disorder, and that even touching a computer mouse or hearing a loud noise can trigger it, reports the Sacramento Bee.

In a statement to Engadget, Facebook said it was "reviewing" the lawsuit and took moderator support "incredibly seriously" and pointed to its existing assistance, including "in house" psychological and wellness support as well as similar requirements for its third-party partners.

As part of her job, she was supposedly subjected to "videos, images and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide and murder", the suit states. "Instead the multibillion-dollar corporation affirmatively requires its content moderators to work under conditions known to cause and exacerbate psychological trauma".

"Our client is asking Facebook to set up a medical monitoring fund to provide testing and care to content moderators with PTSD", said Steve Williams, one of Scola's lawyers from the firm Joseph Saver, in the release.

'From her cubicle in Facebook's Silicon Valley offices, Ms. Scola witnessed thousands of acts of extreme and graphic violence, ' the court documents read.

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According to her lawyers, she developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of constant exposure to "highly toxic and extremely disturbing images" at her workplace.

As of June, Facebook employs 7,500 content reviewers across the world, a number that it's doubling this year to 20,000.

The class action lawsuit claims that Facebook and its contractor Pro Unlimited created unsafe work conditions for thousands of contractors by failing to provide adequate training and counselling in defiance of its own guidelines.

Facebook said in July that all content reviewers have access to mental health resources, including onsite counselors, and that all reviewers have full health care benefits.

The legal action says that there is potential for a class action from "thousands" of current and former moderators in California. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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