PhotoWater torture is cruel and effective. So is being blasted with extremely loud rock and roll for days on end. And so, say two Microsoft employees, is being forced to watch child pornography and scenes of bestiality on a daily basis.

In fact, it's a torture that was foreseen by novelist Anthony Burgess in his 1972 classic, "A Clockwork Orange," in which a young rapist and thug is forced to watch scenes of beastiality and violence while listening to classical music.

Now, nearly 50 years later, that's what Henry Soto and Greg Blauert say happened to them, minus the classical music. The two say in a lawsuit filed in Washington's King County Court that they were assigned to view web pages that featured scenes of murder, child pornography, and bestiality without receiving any worthwhile psychological support. 

The customer service workers say they were not able to turn down the assignment, which required them to decide whether the previewed content should be deleted or reported to law enforcement.

Microsoft says that it "takes seriously the health and resiliency of the employees who do this important work."

"Horrible brutality"

The suit says the two were required to witness "horrible brutality, murder, indescribable sexual assaults, videos of humans dying and, in general, videos and photographs designed to entertain the most twisted and sick minded people in the world.” 

“Plaintiffs Henry Soto and Greg Blauert were not warned about the likely dangerous impact of reviewing the depictions nor were they warned they may become so concerned with the welfare of the children, they would not appreciate the harm the toxic images would cause them and their families,” they say in the complaint, Courthouse News Service reported.

Microsoft offered a "Wellness Program" that allegedly did little more than advise employees disturbed by the images to take "walks and smoking breaks" and to redirect their thoughts by playing video games, the suit alleges.

Soto says the job left him with nightmares and hallucinations after he viewed a video of a girl being abused and killed, symptoms consistent with post-traumatic shock disorder. 

Blauert says he suffered similar symptoms and tried to relieve them by, as the Wellness Program dictated, playing video games, only to then be criticized for spending too much time doing so.

Soto and Blauert want Microsoft to provide the online safety team with the same support and protections as the digital crimes unit, which has a larger budget.

"Safer and more trusted"

In an email to ConsumerAffairs, a Microsoft spokesperson said that finding and removing objectionable content "is difficult, but critically important to a safer and more trusted internet. The health and safety of our employees who do this difficult work is a top priority.

"Microsoft works with the input of our employees, mental health professionals, and the latest research on robust wellness and resilience programs to ensure those who handle this material have the resources and support they need, including an individual wellness plan. We view it as a process, always learning and applying the newest research about what we can do to help support our employees even more,” the spokesperson said. 

The plaintiffs seek damages for pain and suffering and economic damages and treble damages under the Consumer Protection Act and Washington Disability Discrimination Act.


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