Former content moderator claims working at Facebook caused PTSD

25 Sep 2018

Facebook sign at Menlo Park. Image: JUSTNOW/Shutterstock

A California woman alleges she developed post-traumatic stress disorder from working as a Facebook content moderator.

Selena Scola, a former content moderator at Facebook, filed a legal case against the company on 21 September. According to Motherboard, Scola alleges that the job gave her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as she viewed numerous distressing images and videos. The former staff member also alleges that the social media giant did not provide enough mental health care to moderators.

Scola worked at the Facebook California headquarters in Menlo Park for a little under a year through Pro Unlimited Inc, a Florida-based staffing company. Scola filed the complaint in a court in San Mateo, California.

Class-action potential

If the court accepts her argument, it will become a class-action lawsuit. This is due to allegations in the document saying Scola’s experience was “typical” for those working as moderators for Facebook.

The claim does not have many details about Scola’s work as her lawyers said she fears the company may retaliate against her “using a purported non-disclosure agreement”. Her legal representatives said she would detail her experiences more comprehensively further into the process.

The documents allege that Scola’s PTSD is triggered when she touches a computer mouse, enters a cold building, is startled, or encounters violent media content in television and films. The claim added: “Her symptoms are also triggered when she recalls or describes graphic imagery she was exposed to as a content moderator.”

One source told Motherboard they were “not surprised at all” that Facebook is facing legal action around this particular issue.

Facebook says it provides a high level of care

A spokesperson for the company responded, saying Facebook recognises the work can often be a difficult task. They said the company takes content moderator support seriously and stressed that it offers moderators “psychological support and wellness resources”.

They added: “Facebook employees receive these in-house and we also require companies that we partner with for content review to provide resources and psychological support, including onsite counselling – available at the location where the plaintiff worked – and other wellness resources like relaxation areas at many of our larger facilities.”

The company currently has approximately 7,500 content moderators examining the endless stream of user-generated content uploaded to the platform on a daily basis. It plans to increase this number. Many accounts from content moderators for various online platforms have discussed the difficulty of the role.

Facebook sign at Menlo Park. Image: JUSTNOW/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects