Former Contract Employee Sues Facebook Over PTSD

Selena Scola worked as a Facebook content moderator for less than nine months before she developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

Scola who was a contract employee for the social media giant is now suing her former workplace for failing to protect her and thousands of other moderators from psychological trauma.

A lawsuit filed in the U.S state of California claims Scola witnessed thousands of acts of graphic violence in her role which involved removing online material that violates Facebook's terms of use policy.

The social media giant employs or contracts at least 7,500 moderators around the world, who review more than 10 million reports of potentially objectionable material every week, according to the lawsuit.

Scola claims moderators are not provided appropriate protection for viewing endless videos and images of "child abuse, rape, torture, bestiality, beheadings, suicide, murder, and other forms of extreme violence."

"As a result of constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace, Ms. Scola developed and suffers from significant psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder," the lawsuit claims.

"Ms. Scola’s PTSD symptoms may be triggered when she touches a computer mouse, enters a cold building, watches violence on television, hears loud noises, or is startled. Her symptoms are also triggered when she recalls or describes graphic imagery she was exposed to as a content moderator."

The suit also claims Facebook has violated state law by ignoring the workplace safety standards it helped to create.

Image: Getty

"Other tech companies have implemented these safety standards, which include providing moderators with robust and mandatory counseling and mental health supports; altering the resolution, audio, size, and color of trauma inducing images; and training moderators to recognize the physical and psychological symptoms of PTSD."

"Instead, the multibillion-dollar corporation affirmatively requires its content moderators to work under conditions known to cause and exacerbate psychological trauma."

According to a blog post earlier this year from Facebook's vice president of global policy management Monika Bickert, the number of moderators has increased by 40 percent since 2017 and the company undertakes an audit of moderators' decisions every week.

"Where mistakes are being made, we follow up with people on the team so as to prevent recurrence in the future," Bickert said.

READ MORE: Facebook Reveals Just How Good It Is At Moderating The Content We See

Lawyers for Scola said the psychological trauma and cognitive and social disorders these workers face are serious.

"They’re being ignored, and the problems will only grow worse—for the company and for these individual," Steven Williams of Joseph Saveri Law Firm said.

“This case is about protecting the people who protect the public. Content managers are human beings. They are not disposable."

Korey Nelson lawyer for co-counsel Burns Charest LLP said they were seeking a class-action status for the lawsuit because of "well-documented" evidence that repeated exposure to graphic images can have "profoundly negative effects."

Image: Getty

“Facebook is ignoring its duty to provide a safe workplace and instead creating a revolving door of contractors who are irreparably traumatized by what they witnessed on the job,” Nelson said.

Scola was never directly employeed by Facebook. She was contracted through Pro Unlimited who are also named in her claim.

Scola is demanding that Facebook and Pro Unlimited set up a medical testing and treatment program for content moderators with PTSD.

Featured Image: Getty