In a ruling that could have a huge impact for some Irish-based social media content moderators Facebook has agreed, in a preliminary settlement filed in California), to pay $52 million to current and former moderators as a result of the psychological trauma that they endured arising from the content that they were expected to view and the lack of an adequate support system to help them deal with it.
In addition to the compensation, Facebook has announced that if will be setting up additional counselling for those employed to complete content moderation tasks. The preliminary settlement will be available for class members who have been employed at locations in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida since 2015. Final approval will be considered later in 2020, following a period of time for class members to review the preliminary settlement sufficiently.
Some of the amendments to the work change practices for content moderation going forward include audio being muted by default and videos will be displayed in black and white. In addition to this support systems will be enhanced and one-on-one sessions with a mental health professional will be an option. Access to workers suffering extreme mental health issues as a result of the work will be given access to a counsellor in less than 24 hours.
A similar action is currently being taken in Ireland has been submitted for Facebook content moderators employed in Ireland. claiming that they (the moderators) suffered from “psychological trauma” due to unacceptable work conditions and lack of an adequate support system to assist them in dealing with the strain of the role.
There are 11,250 moderators included in the class action in the US. Each moderator may be entitled for extra compensation of up to $50,000 based on the suffering they experienced. The legal action was initially submitted by former Facebook moderator Selena Scola in a California in September 2018. After it was submitted numerous other former Facebook content moderators joined the action. This led a number of reports in different media outlets of the severe conditions and lack of support that the employees had to endure during their time working with Facebook.
Facebook released a statement which said: “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.” Last July Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially dismissed the multiple stories of moderators developing PTSD, referring to them as “a little overdramatic”.
In a statement, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Steve Williams said: “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.”