Facebook is settling a lawsuit brought by third-party content moderators who say they were traumatized after being exposed to graphic imagery of violence, child sex, and more working for Facebook.
The Verge calls the settlement "a landmark acknowledgment of the toll that content moderation takes on its workforce," and as part of it, Facebook will pay out a minimum of $1,000 to each of 11,250 current and former moderators who joined the class. The total settlement of $52 million will allow for larger payments to some of the class members who suffered more severe mental health outcomes as a result of their jobs.
"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 to The Verge. “The harm that can be suffered from this work is real and severe.”
The Verge was among the first publications to shine a light on the dark and damaging world of Facebook content moderation in this piece in February 2019, and this subsequent followup in June. Reporter Casey Newton spoke to current and former workers at third-party moderation company Cognizant, at offices in Phoenix and Tampa, where workers were making less than $30,000 per year and often suffering and acting out in their jobs.
They discussed being exposed to images and video of beheadings, animal cruelty, child abuse, violent pornography, graphic violence, and hate speech. And sometimes it was the fringe, conspiracy-laced content that had the most significant impacts.
From the first piece, titled "The Trauma Floor":
The moderators told me it’s a place where the conspiracy videos and memes that they see each day gradually lead them to embrace fringe views. One auditor walks the floor promoting the idea that the Earth is flat. A former employee told me he has begun to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Another former employee, who told me he has mapped every escape route out of his house and sleeps with a gun at his side, said: “I no longer believe 9/11 was a terrorist attack.”
Under the settlement, some of these workers who received double diagnoses of, say, PTSD and depression, may be eligible for payments of up to $6,000.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Facebook said the company is "grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone," and "We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future."