Facebook Content Moderator Says Job Gave Her PTSD, Sues Company

The lawsuit says Facebook has ignored its duty to keep moderators from being "irreparably traumatized."

Imagine the worst, most traumatic content the internet has to offer. Now imagine a job that inundates you with it all day, every day.

Such was the life of Selena Scola, a former Facebook content moderator who, along with 7,500 or so other people, collectively screened around 10 million posts a week. Now, after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, the San Francisco resident is suing Facebook and an independent contractor for failing to enforce workplace safety standards, according to a copy of the lawsuit provided to HuffPost.

The suit, filed Friday in state court in San Mateo County, seeks class-action status on behalf of Facebook’s California-based content moderators. Most of those employees, like Scola, worked at the company’s Menlo Park campus for an independent contractor named Pro Unlimited, Inc.

Scola worked her moderator job from June 2017 to March 2018, according to the suit. Per the complaint, Scola had to regularly sift through “videos, images, and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, and murder.”

“Every day, every minute, that’s what you see. Heads being cut off.”

That lines up with the experience of a Facebook moderator who told The Guardian last year he earned $15 an hour scrubbing decapitation videos from the platform.

“There was literally nothing enjoyable about the job,” the man, who is not a party in Scola’s suit, told the outlet last May.

“You’d go into work at 9 a.m. every morning, turn on your computer and watch someone have their head cut off,” he said. “Every day, every minute, that’s what you see. Heads being cut off.”

The suit claims Facebook has failed to adequately prepare moderators for the psychological stress inherent to the job or to provide the necessary support for those suffering as a result.

“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,” Korey Nelson, a lawyer for the firm representing Scola, said in a statement.

The suit seeks to create a “Facebook-funded medical monitoring program” to cover medical treatment costs for moderators.

Facebook Director of Corporate Communications Bertie Thompson told HuffPost on Tuesday that the company is reviewing Scola’s claims, but that it stood by its training and support structure for moderators.

In an emailed statement, Thompson said Facebook requires contractors like Pro Unlimited “to provide resources and psychological support, including on-site counseling,” which was available at the Menlo Park facility.

The suit’s status depends on a forthcoming class action certification hearing before a judge.

Two former Microsoft content moderators sued that company last January after they, too, say they developed PTSD. Their suit claims that Microsoft, after being asked to provide more mental health support, instead encouraged employees to play video games to redirect their thoughts, limit their exposure, and take more walks and smoke breaks.

This article has been updated with comment from Facebook.

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