California Lawsuit Claims Facebook Fails to Properly Protect Content Moderators
Contractors developing PTSD from daily forced viewing of “depraved images”
SAN MATEO, Calif. – A groundbreaking lawsuit claims that content moderators responsible for viewing and removing a range of offensive, horrifying images and videos from Facebook are suffering from psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder and are not being properly protected by the social media giant.
The lawsuit, filed on September 21 in California state court in San Mateo County, alleges that individual Facebook content moderators working under contract are bombarded daily with thousands of “videos, images and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide and murder.”
“It is well-documented that repeated exposure to such images can have a profoundly negative effect on the viewer,” says Korey Nelson of the law firm of Burns Charest LLP, which is seeking class-action status for the lawsuit. “Facebook is ignoring its duty to provide a safe workplace and instead creating a revolving door of contractors who are irreparably traumatized by what they witnessed on the job.”
Facebook and other internet service providers voluntarily established industry standards for training, counseling, and supporting content moderators more than a decade ago. But the lawsuit claims that Facebook does not follow the workplace safety guidelines the company helped create.
“Facebook has an obligation to provide its content moderators with a safe workplace,” said William Most of the Law Office of William Most. “Other tech companies implement safeguards to mitigate trauma to content moderators. Facebook must be held to the same standard.”
The proposed class action alleges negligence and failure to maintain a safe workplace. The action was filed on behalf of lead plaintiff Selena Scola of San Francisco, who worked at Facebook offices for nine months under a contract through Pro Unlimited Inc., a staffing company based in Boca Raton, Florida, which is also a named defendant in the litigation.
“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 of the Joseph Saveri Law Firm. “Facebook needs to mitigate the harm to content moderators today and also take care of the people that have already been traumatized.”
According to the filing, Ms. Scola started working as a Facebook content manager in June 2017 and was formally diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after experiencing symptoms that included fatigue, insomnia, and social anxiety.
Facebook reportedly receives more than a million reports of potentially objectionable content each day.