Some time ago I wrote about Facebook moderators whose job was to monitor video postings and remove those that were violent or otherwise disturbing. The problem was that they had to view so many such videos so quickly that they started suffering from the symptoms of PTSD and Facebook executives did not seem concerned and did not take steps to mitigate the mental stress they were under, both from repeated viewing of graphic violent imagery and from pressure to make decisions quickly even as the guidelines kept changing. Some of them sued the company and yesterday a judge awarded them damages.
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.
What is also important are the steps the company has agreed to take to minimize future damage.
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.
Of course, $52 million is a pittance for Facebook and $1,000 is not that much money for the moderators. But it is a start, and some people may be eligible for more.