Facebook agreed to pay out a $52 million settlement to thousands of current and former content moderators who said they are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome after viewing upsetting content on the job, The Verge reported Tuesday.
Each moderator will receive a minimum of $1,000 and will be eligible for additional compensation if they are exhibiting other trauma due to the kind of content they regularly view, the report noted. The settlement applies to 11,250 moderators, some of whom told the Verge in 2019 that they became conspiracy theorists while moderating content people post online.
“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 in a press statement addressing the settlement. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”
Facebook expressed support for the moderators in a statement to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “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,” company spokesman Drew Pusateri said.
One former employee named Selena Scola filed a lawsuit against the Silicon Valley giant in September 2018, alleging that her job gave her PTSD — a claim her lawyers used to kickstart the class-action lawsuit. Several moderators at former Facebook contractor Cognizant told the Verge that conspiracy theories took strong root in the company’s Arizona office.
One person The Verge called Chloe, for instance, claimed her colleagues eventually began doubting the initial story behind the 2018 Parkland shooting as more conspiracy content was posted to Facebook and Instagram.
“People really started to believe these posts they were supposed to be moderating,” Chloe said. “They were saying, ‘Oh gosh, they weren’t really there. Look at this CNN video of David Hogg — he’s too old to be in school.’ People started Googling things instead of doing their jobs and looking into conspiracy theories about them.”
Moderating posts gave another moderator named Randy a form of PTSD and gave him a distorted view of reality, the Verge reported in 2019.
Randy said that he came to believe the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job after viewing videos making the case. He also claims conspiracy videos about the Las Vegas massacre were persuasive — he also now believes that multiple shooters were responsible for the attack.
“I’m fucked up, man,” Randy told The Verge, referring to his mental state after working at the Arizona center for roughly a year. “My mental health — it’s just so up and down. One day I can be really happy, and doing really good. The next day, I’m more or less of a zombie. It’s not that I’m depressed. I’m just stuck.”
Randy and Chloe did not use their real names in the Verge story because they signed non-disclosure agreements to prevent contractors from sharing Facebook users’ personal information.
Cognizant shut down its content moderation sites in 2020 after announcing in 2019 that the company was leaving that business.
Moderators are also eligible to receive up to $50,000 in damages if they can submit evidence of other injuries they suffered during their time working on behalf of Facebook.
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