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Facebook to pay $52 million to settle claims of mental health trauma among moderators

Former employees complained that they developed mental health conditions as a result of their work

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Photo (c) David Tran - Getty Images
Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to settle a complaint filed in 2018 by former content moderators who said they developed mental health conditions on the job.

Under the settlement, current and former moderators (all 11,250 of them) will get a minimum of $1,000 each. Plaintiffs will be eligible for additional compensation if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. 

In the original class action lawsuit, which was filed in September 2018 by contractor Selena Scola, Facebook employees complained that they developed psychological conditions -- including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) -- because they frequently viewed violent and disturbing content on the platform.

Psychological trauma

Scola said she developed PTSD after nine months of viewing content that often included violent behavior, beheadings, suicides, and animal cruelty. Attorneys argued that the psychological trauma suffered was in violation of a California law which requires that companies provide a safe working environment. 

The settlement has been preliminarily approved by the Superior Court of the State of California. 

As many as half of the current and former moderators involved in the suit may be eligible for extra compensation related to mental health issues linked with their time working for Facebook, according to lawyers. Individual compensation could be up to $50,000 each in cases where moderators developed severe trauma-related mental health conditions. 

“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 statement. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

Rolling out changes

As part of the settlement, Facebook has agreed to enact several changes to protect the mental health of its moderators. Those changes include muting audio by default and changing videos to black and white. 

Moderators who regularly view graphic and disturbing content will get access to weekly mental health counseling sessions, and Facebook will also make monthly group therapy sessions available to moderators.

The company said it’s “grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone” and added that it is “committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future."

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