It has long been acknowledged that working for Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has some benefits that many other companies just cannot compete with. Alongside a number of health and wellness benefits the company likes to support their employees’ family life and ensures they have the appropriate time away from work that is needed, when it is needed. It is clear that the social media giant likes to look after their team.
However, if you work as a moderator for the company, or any other social media platform, there are some significant negative side effects.
As with all aspects of society there are some who like to post disturbing content and a recent court case has seen Facebook accused of failing to protect their workers against the impact of seeing such content and the negative impact the job has had on their mental health.
This week a settlement of $52 million was agreed by Facebook to compensate their workers, with each moderator being awarded at least $1,000. Those who have had diagnoses of mental health disorders brought on by what they have seen – such as PTSD – could be entitled to a bigger pay out.
Most moderators work via a third-party company and have to view disturbing content such as animal cruelty, terrorism, child sexual abuse and beheadings as well as “every other horror that the depraved mind of man can imagine.”
Steve Williams is a lawyer for the moderators and confirms that the result had left them “thrilled”; especially as it is not often companies such as Facebook lose legal cases. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe. So the fact that we got some real, meaningful relief going forward just feels really good.”
As well as the compensation – which could be anywhere between $1,000 and $50,000 – Facebook has been instructed to amend their policies, making sure that they have stronger protections for the mental health of all their staff.
In America – Texas, Florida, California and Arizona – over 11,000 moderators are now able to qualify for damages.
Selena Scola worked as a moderator for Facebook and filed her lawsuit against the company in September 2018 at a California state court. Other employees heard about the case and also filed a suit.
Scola worked at Facebook for nine months and was diagnosed as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Several reports in the last few years has shown that many employees felt their political leanings moved to the extreme right, or that they had developed an obsession with some aspects of the disturbing content.
Verge released a report in 2019 that found that employees were earning around $28,800 annually, with little or no mental health support, and had to watch thousands of videos daily.
Speaking on behalf of Facebook, a spokesman confirmed the settlement saying that it symbolized the efforts they were making towards changing the way they supported their moderators.
“We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone. We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.”
As well as the damages Facebook has had to agree to further requirements. The company has agreed to improve their working environment as well as work with their vendors to ensure all staff are offered counselling sessions alongside other mental health support initiatives. They have also agreed to look at the tools they provide their moderators to work with to ensure that they are working in a safer environment.
The court case is a positive for employees of social media companies across the world. YouTube has implemented a scheme where employees have to sign a document that states that they are aware they may develop PTSD as a direct result of some of the content they have to watch. Accenture – the third party company who looks after YouTube’s moderators – gave employees the document just four days after an investigation into the mental wellbeing of workers in their center in Austin, Texas.
The document reads, “I understand the content I will be reviewing may be disturbing. It is possible that reviewing such content may impact my mental health, and it could even lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I will take full advantage of the weCare program and seek additional mental health services if needed. I will tell my supervisor/or my HR People Adviser if I believe that the work is negatively affecting my mental health.”
Following the results of the Facebook case, the plaintiffs admitted that the results made them feel “really, really good”, according to Williams, who also stated:
“When the case started, it was only about changing the policies. We are fortunate that it has broadened; the perspective going forward is just as important to us as monetary relief.”