Facebook Proposes $52m Settlement Content Moderators With Job-Related PTSD

Facebook will pay former and current content moderators at least $1,000 each, totaling $52 million, to compensate those who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related mental health conditions on the job as content moderators. The settlement, which will be subjected to a comment period by class members, originated from a case brought by former Facebook moderator Selena Scola who filed a complaint against Facebook in September 2018 claiming that she developed PTSD.

This is the first time that Facebook has acknowledged the toll moderating content can take on Facebook workers. The settlement covers 11,250 moderators in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida form 2015 to the present; lawyers believe up to half of the moderators could qualify for this compensation. The parties notified the court that they had reached a settlement in principle in March.

“We are so pleased that Facebook worked with us to create an unprecedented program to help people performing work that was unimaginable even a few years ago,” Steve Williams, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

Scola and other moderators were told to maintain a “sanitized platform.” In order to do so, moderators were required to look at disturbing content such as “broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, and murder.” She stated she developed PTSD after nine months as a content moderator. Her “‘PTSD symptoms may be triggered when she touches a computer mouse,’ enters a cold building or hears loud noises.” Scola and other former moderators claim that Facebook did not provide them with a safe workspace.

Each qualifying moderator will receive an initial $1,000 for medical costs, including treatment or receiving a diagnosis or other health costs. If a moderator receives any additional money beyond the original $1,000, it will be based on their diagnosis. If a moderator is diagnosed with a mental health condition he or she can receive an additional $1,500. If a moderator has multiple simultaneous diagnoses, such as PTSD and anxiety, they can receive up to $6,000. A moderator could receive up to $50,000 in damages if their diagnosis allows them to qualify to submit evidence of their injuries. The amount each receives will depend on how many members apply and are eligible for the settlement.

Facebook has also agreed to change its content moderation tools in an effort to lessen the impact of viewing difficult and harmful images and videos. Some of the new tools will include default muted audio, and videos will be changed to black and white. Eighty percent of moderators will have these new tools and changes by the end of the year and all moderators will have them by 2021. Facebook will also require its third-party moderator partners to “[screen] applicants for emotional resiliency as part of the recruiting and hiring process”; “[post] information about psychological support at each moderator’s workstation”; “[inform] moderators how to report violations of Facebook’s workplace standards by the vendors they’re working for.”  Moderators viewing these disturbing images and videos every day will have access to a weekly one-on-one session with a licensed mental health professional.

“We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone,” Facebook said. “We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.” Facebook did not admit to any wrongdoing in its settlement.

Note: This story has been updated with a corrected headline. The text of the story has not been changed.