Skip to main content

Facebook will pay $52 million in settlement with moderators who developed PTSD on the job

Facebook will pay $52 million in settlement with moderators who developed PTSD on the job

/

Current and former moderators will all be paid a minimum of $1,000

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / 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.”

In September 2018, former Facebook moderator Selena Scola sued Facebook, alleging that she developed PTSD after being placed in a role that required her to regularly view photos and images of rape, murder, and suicide. Scola developed symptoms of PTSD after nine months on the job. The complaint, which was ultimately joined by several other former Facebook moderators working in four states, alleged that Facebook had failed to provide them with a safe workspace.

Scola was part of a wave of moderators hired in the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election when Facebook was criticized for failing to remove harmful content from the platform. The company hired several large consulting firms, including Accenture, Cognizant, Genpact, and ProUnlimited to bring on thousands of contractors in the United States to do the job.

Last year, The Verge found that moderators hired through Cognizant were working in dire conditions in Phoenix and Tampa. For an annual salary as low as $28,800, moderators were placed into a high-stakes environment that demanded near-perfect accuracy in navigating Facebook’s ever-changing content policies, while being subjected to imagery that could sometimes begin to haunt their dreams within weeks.

Several moderators told The Verge that they had been diagnosed with PTSD after working for Facebook. Later in the year, Cognizant announced that it would leave the content moderation business and shut down its sites earlier this year.

Under the terms of the settlement, every moderator will receive $1,000 that can be spent however they like. But the companies intend for the money to be spent partly on medical treatment, covering the costs associated with seeking a diagnosis related to any mental health issues the moderator may be suffering.

The amount of money a moderator will receive beyond the initial $1,000 will depend on their diagnosis. Anyone who is diagnosed with a mental health condition is eligible for an additional $1,500, and people who receive multiple concurrent diagnoses — PTSD and depression, for example — could be eligible for up to $6,000.

In addition to payment for treatment, moderators with a qualifying diagnosis will be eligible to submit evidence of other injuries they suffered for their time at Facebook and could receive up to $50,000 in damages.

The exact amount of the payout depends on how many members of the class apply for benefits, and it could shrink significantly if the majority of the class is found to be eligible for benefits.

In the settlement, Facebook also agrees to roll out changes to its content moderation tools designed to reduce the impact of viewing harmful images and videos. The tools, which include muting audio by default and changing videos to black and white, will be rolled out to 80 percent of moderators by the end of this year and 100 percent of moderators by 2021.

Moderators who view graphic and disturbing content on a daily basis will also get access to weekly, one-on-one coaching sessions with a licensed mental health professional. Workers who are experiencing a mental health crisis will get access to a licensed counselor within 24 hours, and Facebook will also make monthly group therapy sessions available to moderators.

Other changes Facebook will require of its vendors include:

  • Screening applicants for emotional resiliency as part of the recruiting and hiring process
  • Posting information about psychological support at each moderator’s workstation
  • Informing moderators how to report violations of Facebook’s workplace standards by the vendors they’re working for

The preliminary settlement covers moderators working in California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida from 2015 until now. Members of the class will now have time to comment on the proposed settlement and request changes before it receives final approval from a judge. That is expected to happen by the end of this year, lawyers involved in the case said.

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

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 9 minutes ago Striking out

A
The Verge
Andrew Webster9 minutes ago
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


A
Andrew Webster1:05 PM UTC
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.


A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.


E
TikTok
Spain’s Transports Urbans de Sabadell has La Bussí.

Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.


J
External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
Doing more with less (extravagant holiday parties).

Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.


E
External Link
Insiders made the most money off of Helium’s “People’s Network.”

Remember Helium, which was touted by The New York Times in an article entitled “Maybe There’s a Use for Crypto After All?” Not only was the company misleading people about who used it — Salesforce and Lime weren’t using it, despite what Helium said on its site — Helium disproportionately enriched insiders, Forbes reports.


J
Youtube
James VincentSep 23
Nvidia’s latest AI model generates endless 3D models.

Need to fill your video game, VR world, or project render with 3D chaff? Nvidia’s latest AI model could help. Trained on 2D images, it can churn out customizable 3D objects ready to import and tweak.

The model seems rudimentary (the renders aren’t amazing quality and seem limited in their variety), but generative AI models like this are only going to improve, speeding up work for all sorts of creative types.