In brief: Content moderators have a tough, unenviable job. It’s up to them to discover and report some of the internet’s worst images and videos. For one former Facebook worker, the alleged lack of support she received along with the psychological trauma caused by viewing the graphic content has caused her to develop PTSD. As a result, she is now suing the company.
Selena Scola worked as a content moderator for Facebook contractor Pro Unlimited, Inc. from June 2017 up until March this year. She was tasked with identifying and removing content that violated the company’s Community Standards, which includes hate speech, graphic violence and self-harm images and videos, nudity and sexual content, and bullying.
First reported by Motherboard, Scola’s lawyer says the “constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace” resulted in her developing post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Ms. Scola’s PTSD symptoms may be triggered when she touches a computer mouse, enters a cold building, watches violence on television, hears loud noises, or is startled,” the lawsuit states. “Her symptoms are also triggered when she recalls or describes graphic imagery she was exposed to as a content moderator.”
While Facebook says it provides "in-house" psychological and wellness support to its moderators and addresses these concerns during staff training, Scola's lawsuit claims the company doesn’t go far enough to protect its workers. The class action seeks a “Facebook-funded medical monitoring program” that would “include a trust fund to pay for medical monitoring and treatment.”
With of thousands of current and former moderators who worked for Facebook in California over the last three years, plenty of people could join the class action. The social network currently has over 7500 people working to identify content that violates its policies and says it will expand that number to 20,000.
Back in January last year, two former Microsoft employees from its Online Safety Team sued the company over claims that exposure to extreme material caused them to develop PTSD.
Facebook has responded to the lawsuit with the following statement:
"We are currently reviewing this claim. We recognize that this work can often be difficult. That is why we take the support of our content moderators incredibly seriously, starting with their training, the benefits they receive, and ensuring that every person reviewing Facebook content is offered psychological support and wellness resources. Facebook employees receive these in house and we also require companies that we partner with for content review to provide resources and psychological support, including onsite counseling - available at the location where the plaintiff worked - and other wellness resources like relaxation areas at many of our larger facilities."