Facebook to Pay $52 Million in Settlement With Content Moderators Who Developed PTSD

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
May 13, 2020Updated: May 13, 2020

Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who developed mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after exposure to graphic and violent imagery on the social media platform, according to a settlement agreement announced on May 12.

Under the proposed settlement, which was filed Friday in San Mateo County Superior Court, California, more than 11,000 current and former Facebook content moderators from four states will each be eligible to receive a minimum of $1,000 in cash.

Individuals who developed PTSD or related psychological conditions linked to their job with the social media giant will be eligible for additional compensation of up to $50,000 each. Medical treatment for diagnosed conditions may also be covered by the company, according to the settlement agreement.

“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 defense attorney for the 11,250 content moderators, said in a statement. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

The payout comes after Facebook was sued by former content moderator, Selena Scola, in September 2018, in a class-action lawsuit. Scola alleged that she developed PTSD after her nine-month stint with the company, and said that content moderators who face mental trauma after reviewing distressing images on the platform are not being properly protected.

Facebook moderators under contract are “bombarded” with “thousands of videos, images, and livestreamed broadcasts of child sexual abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, and murder,” the lawsuit said.

Facebook admitted no wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement, and laid out plans instructing U.S. Facebook vendors on how they can best support employees who may be exposed to potentially graphic content throughout their employment.

“Resiliency” pre-screening and assessments will be now be conducted as part of the company’s recruitment and hiring processes, and content moderators will be able to have regular one-on-one coaching sessions and group wellness sessions with clinicians. Content moderators will also receive clear guidelines for how to remove themselves from “a specific content type,” the settlement states.

“We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone,” a Facebook spokesperson told NPR in an emailed statement. “We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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