There have been multiple exposes written over the course of the last few years about how traumatizing it can be to work as a content moderator for a major social media platform.
Wired wrote in 2014 about an office in the Philippines that provided content moderation services to U.S. tech companies, and the horrible things they were repeatedly made to witness. The Verge wrote in 2019 about the often difficult lives of Facebook moderators. The Washington Post, earlier this year, wrote about a former Facebook mod who sued the company, with Facebook in May agreeing to pay $52 million to some ex-moderators claiming PTSD.
According to CNBC the woman, known in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” worked as a contractor for a firm that was contracted to YouTube in 2018 and 2019. The lawsuit claims that the woman was made to watch “murders, abortions, child rape, animal mutilation and suicides,” as well as beheadings. CNET first broke the story of the suit.
The lawsuit is a proposed class action, claiming the company is not taking adequate steps towards safeguarding the mental health of those who do such work. It also claims that the department is understaffed. Also alleged is that YouTube “failed to adequately inform potential content moderators about the negative impact the job could have on their mental health and what it involved,” CNET said.
“She has trouble sleeping and when she does sleep, she has horrific nightmares. She often lays awake at night trying to go to sleep, replaying videos that she has seen in her mind,” the lawsuit said, per CNET. The woman also says she is unable to be in crowded places.
She also claims that the “Wellness Coaches” offered to YouTube employees were not made available to employees who work at night, and that moderators were made to pay for their own medical treatment. It also says, according to CNET, that when the plaintiff went to a wellness coach with her concerns, “the coach recommended the worker take illegal drugs and didn’t provide any resilience training or ways to cope with her symptoms.”
Jane Doe is represented by the same law firm as the plaintiffs in the Facebook suit.
Per the report YouTube, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, has thousands of content moderators, most of whom are employed by such contractors as Collabera, Vaco and Accenture (the plaintiff in the lawsuit worked for Collabera, in Austin, Texas.) Each moderator is asked to look at up to 300 pieces of video content each day.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.