Half of all Facebook moderators may develop mental health issues

BY admin May 17, 2020 Facebook ، Health 6 views

In November 2018 I received a message that changed my life. A person working as a moderator for Facebook in Phoenix through a company called Cognizant asked to get on the phone and talk about some of what he was seeing there. 

Photo by Michele Doying / The Verge

In November 2018 I received a message that changed my life. A person working as a moderator for Facebook in Phoenix through a company called Cognizant asked to get on the phone and talk about some of what he was seeing there. His experiences shocked me, and after I wrote about what he and his colleagues were going through in The Verge, they would go on to shock a lot more people.

It was an office where moderators would have panic attacks while still in training, traumatized by daily exposure to gore and other disturbing posts. Where ever-shifting content policies, and demands for near-perfect accuracy, could make the job itself impossible. And where months of sifting through conspiracy theories led some moderators to embrace fringe viewpoints, walking through the building insisting that the earth is flat.

I wrote about the experiences of a dozen current and former moderators at the Phoenix site last February. A few months later, after hearing from employees that conditions at Cognizant’s Tampa site were even more grim, I traveled there and talked to a dozen more workers. There I learned of a stressed-out moderator who died of a heart attack at his desk at the age of 42. I learned of multiple sexual harassment suits that had been filed against various workers at the site. And I met three brave former moderators who violated their non-disclosure agreements to describe their working conditions on camera.

By then a lawsuit by a former moderator named Selena Scola, which accused Facebook of creating an unsafe workplace that had caused her mental health problems, was working its way through the courts. And on Friday, lawyers filed a preliminary settlement in the case. I wrote about it today at The Verge:

In a landmark acknowledgment of the toll that content moderation takes on its workforce, Facebook has agreed to pay $52 million to current and former moderators to compensate them for mental health issues developed on the job. In a preliminary settlement filed on Friday in San Mateo Superior Court, the social network agreed to pay damages to American moderators and provide more counseling to them while they work.

Each moderator will receive a minimum of $1,000 and will be eligible for additional compensation if they are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or related conditions. The settlement covers 11,250 moderators, and lawyers in the case believe that as many as half of them may be eligible for extra pay related to mental health issues associated with their time working for Facebook, including depression and addiction.

“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,” said Steve Williams, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, in a statement. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”

After a year of reporting on the lives of these moderators — I also profiled people who do the work for Google and YouTube — it seemed clear to me that some percentage of people who work as moderators will suffer long-term mental health consequences. But what is that percentage?

Last year I published some leaked audio from a Facebook all-hands meeting in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged this range of experiences. “Within a population of 30,000 people, there’s going to be a distribution of experiences that people have,” Zuckerberg said, referring to the number of people Facebook has working on trust and safety issues around the world. “We want to do everything we can to make sure that even the people who are having the worst experiences, that we’re making sure that we support them as well as possible.”

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